Report: Stevenage 2 Sheffield United 1

Stevenage do the double over Sheffield sides as they blunt the Blades

Scott Laird’s late penalty ensured Boro claimed their second Sheffield ‘scalp’ this season at the Lamex Stadium.

Scalp, because that is what United boss Danny Wilson claimed his side would be to Boro ahead of this fixture but it is a comment that may need revision as regular wins against the so-called big teams have seen Stevenage move up the League 1 table and they now sit in seventh.

Recent good results have been built on solid defensive displays, and the win over United was no different, but it was at the other end of the pitch where defenders made their name this afternoon as Laird was joined on the scoresheet by Mark Roberts, the skipper getting his second goal in a week.

Stevenage began the game with Chris Beardsley up front alongside Craig Reid whilst Byron Harrison, who received a cut to his ankle at Bury last weekend after scoring his side’s opener, started on the bench.

The first chance of the match fell to United striker Richard Cresswell who volleyed wide from a corner, while Reid also had an opportunity at goal but shot across Steve Simonsen after Michael Doyle’s clearance had bounced off Beardsley and into the striker’s path.

The best chance of the opening half-hour for the visiting side was created by Matthew Lowton. The full-back made his way down the right and cut inside after some lovely one-touch play with Clarke, and when the 22-year-old got the ball back 20 yards from Boro’s goal he sent a low drive just wide of Day’s left post.

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Like Harrison, Roberts had hit the net at Bury the previous weekend and Boro’s skipper made it two goals in two games with a strike from eight yards just three minutes before half time.

Until then Boro’s set pieces had either been cleared by the United back line or plucked from the air from Steve Simonsen, but this time Reid’s corner from the right found Ashton and when his header across goal found a Stevenage body it was his centre-back partner Roberts who struck the first goal of the game.

That lead was almost doubled just 90 seconds into the second half. Boro had been awarded a free kick on the left midway in their own half and when the set piece was partially cleared it fell to Stacy Long who took it on his chest and then hit a looping volley over Simonsen and straight on to the bar before the home side cleared.

Boro also had the next best chance – well two in the space of 10 seconds – just before the hour mark.

The game had already opened up when Laird went galloping down the left into an acre of space but when he sent a low cross to the far post Beardsley, with a defender alongside him, mistimed his shot with the ball going through his legs just six yards from goal.

Boro were able to hold on to the ball, however, and when it was played back into the box Reid turned his man before shooting just over Simonsen’s goal.

Boro were on top but it was the Blades’ Stephen Quinn who was next to try his luck only to head straight at Day after Matt Phillips’ cross had taken a deflection to the far post.

Long and Beardsley both then had further chances for Boro after Ashton’s clearance was flicked behind the back line by Reid, but Simonsen was out quickly to deny, firstly, Long and then Beardsley with two fine saves at the feet of both players.

It was starting to feel like Bury all over again as Boro, in the lead continued to create further chances without taking them, but unlike at Gigg Lane Stevenage were punished here when United levelled the game.

John Mousinho had been penalised for a foul on the edge of his own box with the midfielder claiming he hadn’t touched his opponent, and from 19 yards substitute Ched Evans stepped up to strike a low free kick into Day’s left hand corner.

It is customary in these situations for the scoring side to then push on, but the opposite happened and Boro were straight at the throats of their opponents, aggrieved at what they had felt was a soft free kick.

Ashton almost put his side ahead once more only for his header, from 12 yards, to hit Harry Maguire, and from a corner just a minute later the same player headed wide of Simonsen’s goal.

Cresswell then had a half-chance, shooting over after connecting with a cross from the right, but then came Laird’s moment.

United had been riding their luck at times as playing one-touch football they gave the ball away on far too many occasions, and when they did so with 10 minutes to go they were punished by the Boro left-back from the spot.

Quinn was the guilty party on the half way line as his quick pass went straight to a Boro shirt, and as Stevenage broke down the right Wilson’s trickery in the box fooled one too many defender and he was tripped by Lecsinal Jean-Francis.

Laird stepped up to put Boro’s recent penalty woes to one side and to ensure Stevenage downed their second visitors from the Steel City to the Lamex this season.

Stevenage: Day 7, Henry 7, Laird 8, Roberts 8, Ashton 7, Wilson 6, Long 8 (Shroot 78), Mousinho 8, Bostwick 7, Reid 7 (Harrison 78), Beardsley 7 (Edwards 84). Subs: Julian, Cowan.

Sheff Utd (4-4-2): Simonsen 7, Lowton 7, Williams 5 (Jean-Francis 71), Collins 6, Maguire 7, Phillips 6, Quinn 7, Doyle 7, Montgomery 5, Cresswell 7 (Porter 84), Clarke 6 (Evans 55, 6). Subs: Long, McDonald.