Report: Stevenage 1 Scunthorpe United 2
Boro lost to The Iron on Saturday, their third straight league defeat
Stevenage 1 Scunthorpe United 2
npower League 1
You have to go back to November 2008 for when Stevenage last lost three league games in succession but the fact that back then the victors included Histon says much about the progress Graham Westley’s men have made.
Yet progress also needs consolidation, and Boro are finding that part of the job increasingly more difficult after what had been a fine start to the League 1 season – culminating in a 5-1 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday – has since been followed by three straight defeats.
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Both Scunthorpe goals were gifts from individual errors and Josh Walker’s late strike was little more than a consolation leaving Boro having to regroup ahead of tomorrow night’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at AFC Wimbledon.
Stevenage began this game without the services of Michael Bostwick (dead leg) and Jennison Myrie-Williams (hamstring), while Phil Edwards once again found himself on the bench. With Guy Madjo, who impressed as a half-time substitute last week, not even making the squad there were a start for ex-Iron striker Ben May while Joel Byrom returned to midfield.
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Shane Duffy and Chris Dagnall both had efforts straight at Chris Day while May and Scott Laird struck from distance for the hosts, but after a slow start the home side picked their game up with Byrom, using his wand of a left foot, and the movement of Stacy Long causing problems for the Scunthorpe midfield.
Boro had sought to use counter-attacks on occasion and one of these almost paid off when Reid put his laces through the ball from 30 yards after a good move involving Ashton, Byrom and Lawrie Wilson only for Sam Johnstone to get his body behind it.
Scunthorpe had a great chance to take the lead 40 minutes in only for Garry Thompson to strike wide from 14 yards. Bobby Grant had done well in the build-up to set up the winger but with only Day to beat the wide man fluffed his lines when the goal beckoned and he shot wide.
After a frustrating opening to the half the final 10 minutes saw plenty of goalmouth action. After Thompson had shot wide Laird stung the palms of Johnstone before Scunthorpe finished on a high as Eddie Nolan opened the scoring two minutes into injury time.
On far too many occasions in the first half Boro had been caught in possession of the ball, and when John Mousinho had the ball pinched from him two minutes into injury time when he should have been clearing his lines the visitors moved the ball around until Nolan, afforded too much space high up the pitch on the left, received a pass out wide, cut inside and hit a low shot into a small gap between Day and the goalkeeper’s right hand post.
Boro began the second half with purpose as Wilson saw a low shot deflected wide after good work from May, and it was Wilson who caused the visitors the most problems throughout the match as his pace and trickery often got the better of Nolan.
It was Wilson whose shot took a deflection which led to a corner from which Boro almost equalised. Stacy Long hit the set piece deep to May, and his header flicked back across goal found Roberts who volleyed onto the post before Scunthorpe cleared their lines.
Stevenage, too, were forced to clear their lines on occasion, twice with last ditch tackles. The first saw Grant setting Dagnall on his way with a flicked pass over the back line and after Boro had unsuccessfully appealed for offside the striker went to pull the trigger until Jon Ashton slid in with a perfectly timed tackle to touch the ball away from the striker’s feet.
Scunthorpe brought on Nicky Ajose for Grant which saw the visitors switch to a more orthodox 4-4-2, and the substitute was gifted the ball by Wilson on 68 minutes only for the Boro man, giving his opponent five yards, to put in a recovering challenge, again last-ditch.
Chances for Boro were few and far between – Reid flicked a header wide from a Long cross and Mousinho hit a shot into the back of Duffy 25 yards from goal – but when Wilson set up Roberts with 10 minute to go, most of the ground thought the Boro skipper had found the net but his turn and shot across goal rolled agonisingly past the far post and out for a goal kick.
Boro were seeing plenty of the ball and when Johnstone saved at the feet of Craig Reid the ball fell to substitute Chris Beardsley but his soft effort was blocked by a Scunthorpe defender.
Long then had a shout for a handball as the hosts pushed for an equaliser, but referee Keith Stroud waved away the Boro appeals, and moments later Beardsley ran through onto a long Roberts punt upfield but after the striker had eased his marker off the ball far too easily his shot was straight at Johnstone who pushed it away.
It was an encouraging end from Boro, but once again they were caught out – and it was all of their own doing.
Ronnie Henry, under pressure at right-back, handed the ball to Michael O’Connor who from a tight angle just inside the Stevenage box hit a shot past Day and just inside the far post.
The high-tempo end to the game masked what had been a struggle for both sides, and the visitors were still celebrating the goal which they thought had sealed the win when substitute Josh Walker scored just two minutes after coming on for the home side. The midfielder was awarded too much space, and he buried his left-footed shot into the corner.
There were further chances for the home side as they hunted down an equaliser and Beardsley thought he had won a point for Stevenage only for his low shot to be cleared off the line by Duffy.
This is Boro’s third defeat in a row, but it is also an improved performance on their previous two losses. Yet more work still needs to be done, and Westley will be looking for further improvement tomorrow night.
Stevenage (4-4-2): Day 6, Laird 6, Henry 5, Roberts 6, Ashton 6, Wilson 7, Mousinho 4, Byrom 6 (Shroot 75), Long 7 (Walker 90), May 5 (Beardsley 67, 6), Reid 5. Subs not used: Julian, Edwards.
Scunthorpe (4-5-1): Johnstone 6, Nolan 6, Togwell 7, Nelson 5, Duffy 7, Grant 7 (Ajose 65, 6), Thompson 5, Mozika 6, O’Connor 6, Norwood 5 (Barcham 58, 6), Dagnall 6 (Wright 89). Subs not used: Slocombe, Palmer.