REPORT: Stevenage 1 Hartlepool United 0
- Credit: Archant
Graham Westley’s first game in his third spell in charge of Stevenage ends in a win
npower League 1
Three points, a clean sheet and the winning goal from a marauding left-back, Graham Westley’s first game back in charge at the Lamex had something of an old feel about it.
Westley, of course, has returned to the club for a third stint as manager and in front of a welcoming crowd he watched on as the on-loan Max Ehmer scored the only goal of the game with 15 minutes to go.
From the off Boro played a high-intensity style of football with pressing high up the pitch, a style reminiscent of Westley’s last time in charge, but from the 11 starting the game only three (Mark Roberts, Luke Freeman and Robin Shroot) were here when the manager left for Preston North End in January 2012.
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It was Shroot who set the tempo in the opening 20 minutes. He put in a couple of crunching, and clean, tackles, and in the unusual role of central midfielder added something in the final third.
Boro had an early chance at goal when, from a corner, Marcus Haber headed straight into the hands of Scott Flinders, before a moment later Freeman, who looked good on the ball all afternoon, fired straight at the goalkeeper from the edge of the box.
Hartlepool’s Charlie Wyke then had an effort in response at the Boro goal, his shot saved by Steve Arnold.
Boro were dealt a significant blow 22 minutes in when Shroot went down under a challenge from Jack Baldwin near his own half-way line.
Shroot stayed down long enough for Westley to come on and speak with his injured player - ankle ligaments - and when he was stretchered off he was replaced by Anthony Grant.
With Shroot leaving the pitch Boro lost a little of that early momentum and the visitors went close with Darren Holden firing just over from the edge of the box.
Hartlepool also pinned Boro back for the last five minutes of the half, but only had a Jonathan Franks shot, blocked by Roberts, and another effort, blocked inside the six-yard box by Grant, to show for it.
Stevenage had a great chance at the start of the second period to go ahead when a corner was flicked to the far post by David Gray but neither Roberts or Haber, both running in, were able to nudge it home.
Westley made a change with Filipe Morais replacing Dani Lopez on the hour mark, while Hartlepool also made a change with 18-year-old Luke James replacing Baldwin.
James had three decent chances to put the visitors ahead, two wide and a third blocked by Roberts, before Morais had a hand in the only goal, his shot being directed into the path of Ehmer, signed until the end of the season from QPR, who slotted neatly past Flinders and inside the far post.
Boro then almost made it 2-0 in another move started by Morais. The front man put the ball into the path of Dunne whose neat flick saw him beat a defender and pull the ball back for Freeman to slot home from six yards. The winger, however, saw his effort saved on the line by Flinders.
Stevenage saw the game out with Hartlepool failing to create any more chances of note, and for Westley it was just the type of homecoming he would have wanted.
Stevenage: Arnold 6, Gray 6, N’Gala 6, Roberts 6, Ehmer 7, Akins 7 (Deacon 79), Shroot 7 (Grant 24, 7), Dunne 8, Freeman 7, Haber 6, Lopez 6 (Morais 60, 7). Subs: Day, Smith, Jeffrey, Hoskins.
Hartlepool United: Flinders 6, Austin 6, Humphries 5, Collins 6, Franks 6 (Rutherford 87), Walton 7, Monkhouse 6, Baldwin 6 (James 67, 7), Holden, 6, Wyke, 7 Hartley 6. Subs: Rowbotham, Buddle, Hawkins, McHugh, Boagey.
Ref: Carl Berry