REPORT: Scunthorpe United 1 Stevenage 0

Luke Freeman was back in the starting XI last night. Photo: Harry Hubbard

Luke Freeman was back in the starting XI last night. Photo: Harry Hubbard - Credit: Archant

Boro move closer to relegation zone after fifth successive defeat

Scunthorpe United 1

Stevenage 0

npower League 1

‘Toothless’ is how Gary Smith summed up this display, but Stevenage’s problems run much deeper than not having a cutting edge.

Unfortunately for Boro their problems lay not in the final third but in the middle of the pitch, and when that happens - and happens consistently - you are in serious trouble.

Where Scunthorpe’s passing was quick and precise, Boro’s was erratic, where Scunthorpe’s movement was a joy to watch, Stevenage’s, Robin Shroot aside, was lethargic.

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This was Stevenage’s fifth straight defeat – and to make matters worse, four of those losses have come against teams below them in League 1.

And should Boro lose against Colchester United on Saturday, they could be as little as five points above the relegation zone come the end of the weekend.

Stevenage, of course, have a game in hand on most of the teams below them, but games in hand count for nothing if you are not winning matches.

A change of goalkeeper, dropping and then recalling the captain, adding experience to the midfield, changing formation to 3-5-2, bringing back into the fold Robin Shroot – Gary Smith has made the changes in the past couple of weeks, but the poor run remains.

In this match Boro, for whom Luke Freeman and Steve Beleck came in for Lee Hills and Marcus Haber, made Scunthorpe look far better than they actually are.

Jimmy Ryan had the first sight on goal, but his effort went direct to Chris Day, before soon afterwards the same player, Boro’s tormentor-in-chief, fired wildly off target.

In reply, Shroot fired low at the Scunthorpe goal but Sam Slocombe gathered.

Scunthorpe had the better of the opening 25 minutes, and they went close to going ahead when Michael Collins broke free of the Boro defence.

With the midfielder heading towards goal, there was a miscommunication in the Stevenage defence with Day staying close to line, but the goalkeeper did well to save the shot.

Boro struggled to get out of their own half at the start of the second half, and Scunthorpe thought they had taken the lead when Hawley put his low shot past Day only for his effort to be ruled out for offside.

Lucas Akins then beat a man in the Scunthorpe box, but put too much on his effort and blasted it wide.

More pressure from the hosts saw Day put one cross over his own goal, and when the resulting corner was cleared, the ball was crossed for Tom Newey to flick his header onto the bar.

The pressure was building and it was inevitable that the home side would score, with Mark Duffy the scorer 25 minutes to go.

The front man had had a quiet evening, and maybe that’s why when he jogged his way along the edge of the Boro box with the ball nobody bothered to close him down.

It was a mistake, and a costly one, as he sent his effort past Day and just inside the far post.

Stevenage sent on Sam Hoskins, and although the young whippersnapper breathed some life into the Boro attack it was not enough and the front man was left feeding off scraps.

The hosts continued to play the better football, and for the last 20 minutes there only ever looked to be one winner.

Boro did have one half-chance, a Haber header off target, but in the end it was fairly straight-forward for Scunthorpe.

And that will be a worry for Smith, that a team below them can brush Stevenage aside with such ease.

Scunthorpe (4-4-2): Slocombe 6; Nolan 6, Newey 7, Mirfin 6, Canavan 7; Walker 6 (Alabi 62, 6), Ryan 8, Barcham 7, Collins 7, Hawley 8, Duffy 6. Subs: Severn, Ribeiro, Grella, Jennings, Wootton, Adelakun.

Stevenage (3-5-2): Day 6; Charles 6, Chorley 6, Roberts 6; Gray 7, Freeman 5, Mahon 5, Akins 4 (Tansey 77), Dunne 5, Beleck 4 (Haber 59, 5), Shroot 6 (Hoskins 62, 5). Subs: Arnold, Iro, Grant, Comminges.