REPORT: Shrewsbury Town 2 Stevenage 1

Steve Beleck. Photo: Harry Hubbard

Steve Beleck. Photo: Harry Hubbard - Credit: Archant

Stevenage throw away a lead, but should have come away with a point after improved performance

Shrewsbury Town 2 Stevenage 1

npower League 1

For the second time in a week Stevenage took the lead in a match only to come away with nothing.

But whereas last Tuesday’s home defeat to Oldham Athletic came after a poor display from Gary Smith’s men, there was at least some consolation that this was an improved performance.

And yet it is results that count in this game, and this defeat, Boro’s fourth consecutive loss, sees the club continue its descent from the highs of a superb opening to this League 1 season to a potential dogfight to stay in the league come the end of the campaign.

Some may think it fanciful to suggest that relegation is a possibility, but the facts suggest otherwise.

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In the first 11 games this season Stevenage had accrued 23 points, in the second 11 games they managed 14 points while in their last 10 matches Boro have picked up just six points.

There are 14 games to go, and with every team below them, with the exemption of Portsmouth, in better form than Smith’s men, failure to pick up points in their next two games (away to Scunthorpe United (20th) on Tuesday and at home to Colchester United (21st) on Saturday) could see them right in the mix.

Boro had begun this game with a back three of Ben Chorley, Darius Charles and the return of captain Mark Roberts, while there was a place on the left of midfield for Lee Hills and Robin Shroot started up front alongside Marcus Haber.

There was also a start for new loan signing Gavin Mahon, whose calm and simple passing game summed up what Stevenage had been missing for the past couple of months.

Boro looked good in the opening 20 minutes, but they failed to test home goalkeeper Chris Weale before James Dunne’s stunning opener on 20 minutes.

It was the midfielder who had started the move, playing the ball into space ahead of Charles who ran into the gap and put a cross into Haber. The ball then dropped to Dunne who took it on his chest to control it before volleying past Weale from 25 yards.

The finish stunned the home side, and Stevenage almost took advantage of this a minute later only for Haber to flick a Lucas Akins cross wide with his head.

Shrewsbury hit back, and they pinned their visitors in their own half for much of the remainder of the half with their equaliser coming on 31 minutes courtesy of Paul Parry.

Matt Richards’ cross into the box was cleared only as far as his team-mate just inside the area, and with Lee Hills unable to make up the space to get the block in Parry took a touch, picked his spot and put the ball exactly where he had wanted it to go.

Boro made a change on 58 minutes with Hills making way for Luke Freeman, and Stevenage almost took the lead for a second time in the match four minutes later only for Chris Weale to save Haber’s header at the far post.

With 15 minutes to go, and with Steve Beleck on for Haber, Boro pressed forward and a lucky bounce of the ball saw the Stevenage substitute break clear of the defence only to crash down to the floor with Darren Jones’ hand around his waist.

The referee, though, saw nothing in the challenge and allowed play to continue, leaving the Boro bench to collectively give the fourth official an earful.

To make matters worse, with just five minutes to go, and with Sam Hoskins waiting to come on for Boro, Shrewsbury took the lead when Marvin Morgan took a pass eight yards out and took a touch before firing past a helpless Day.

Roberts then went up top, and sent Gray’s cross goalwards only for Weale to pull off a sensational save at the foot of his post. Moments later Mahon was tripped on the edge of the area with Boro demanding a penalty only to get a free kick, which was hit into the wall.

There was a good save from Day and a block on the line from Hoskins as Town broke away in injury time, but their fine work was in vain as the home side finished the game taking all three points.

Shrewsbury (4-4-2): Weale 7; Jacobson 6, Gayle 5, Jones 6, Edwards 6; Parry 6 (Taylor 71), Richards 6, McGinn 5, McAllister 6; Eaves 7 (Morgan 78), Porter 6. Subs: Anyon, Summerfield, Purdie, Goldson, Rodgers.

Stevenage (3-5-2): Day 6; Roberts 6, Charles 6, Chorley 5; Hills 4 (Freeman 58, 6), Mahon 7, Dunne 6, Akins 6, Gray 6; Haber 6 (Beleck 69, 6). Subs: Arnold, Grant, Comminges, Iro, Hoskins.

Att: 4,818 (129)