Sky Bet League Two: Stevenage 4 Cheltenham 1
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Stevenage started 2018 on a high as they came from behind to beat Cheltenham Town 4-1 at The Lamex Stadium in Sky Bet League Two.
Mohamed Eisa gave the visitors the lead with less than two minutes played but goals from Matt Godden, Danny Newton and a Tom Pett doubled saw Boro pick up all three points and their first success of the New Year.
Stevenage manager Darren Sarll made two changes to the team that lost 1-0 at Crawley on Saturday, bringing Pett and Newton into the starting XI in place of Alex Samuel and Dale Gorman.
The Cheltenham team showed just one change from their 1-1 draw with Newport County at the weekend as Kyle Storer replaced the injured Jerrell Sellers, also taking the captains armband.
Visiting manager Gary Johnson was only able to name five players on the substitute’s bench with a number of first-team players on the treatment table, but the away side flew out of the blocks and scored the opening goal inside 90 seconds.
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A ball forward to Eisa saw the striker take on Jack King, cut inside onto his right foot and fire a low shot past a motionless Joe Fryer in the Stevenage goal to stun the Boro faithful into silence.
Eisa nearly got his and Cheltenham’s second just moments later when he broke the offside trap but couldn’t beat the goalkeeper from a tight angle inside the 18-yard box.
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Kevin Dawson then missed a glorious chance as he poked a shot wide when one-on-one with Fryer, much to the anger of Boro boss Sarll and the Lamex Stadium crowd.
It took almost 20 minutes for Stevenage to have their first shot on target as Newton intercepted a pass midway inside the visitors half and charged through the middle, riding a couple of challenges before seeing his effort saved at the near post by Scott Flinders.
There was a worrying moment for Boro when Ronnie Henry flew into a dangerous challenge inside the centre circle but thankfully, referee Gavin Ward only produced a yellow card rather than a red.
Cheltenham had further right to feel aggrieved when Henry played a crucial role in Stevenage’s equaliser with 23 minutes on the clock.
Ben Kennedy had a shot blocked from the edge of the area with the ball falling to the full-back inside the box. His deflected effort was well saved by Flinders but Godden was on hand to tuck home the rebound and level up the game.
Godden then had Flinders scrambling across his goal to keep out a looping header from an in swinging Joe Martin free-kick as Stevenage continued to grow into the game after a slow start to proceedings.
The former Hartlepool ‘keeper was called into action 10 minutes before half-time as he pushed away a Pett shot from the left after good work from Kennedy to create the chance.
However, a mix-up between Flinders and Grimes less than 60 seconds later would cost the visitors.
A hopeful pass towards Pett led to a foot race between himself and Jamie Grimes as the ball rolled towards the edge of the penalty box.
Flinders came rushing from his line but Pett was quickest to the ball, poking it past the two Cheltenham players before sliding the ball into the net while under pressure from a tight angle.
Stevenage were good value for their 2-1 lead at the interval having recovered from conceding early on and dominated the majority of the first period.
Cheltenham made yet another fast start with some heroics from King and a slice of good fortune saving Stevenage from conceding the equaliser just five minutes into the second half.
A towering header from substitute Danny Wright at the far post looped over Fryer, with the goalkeeper indebted to his defender King who managed to hook the ball clear before it crossed the line.
The visitors recycled the ball with another cross being swung in. Fryer got fingertips to the ball as it sailed across the face of goal, very nearly crossing the line once again.
The Middlesbrough loanee made another crucial save moments later as the pacey Eisa gave Henry the slip, drifting inside and smashing a shot goal wards that Fryer push away from danger with strong hands.
The bar then came to Boro’s rescue as they continued to ride their luck. A corner was met by Will Boyle who powered his header off the woodwork with Fryer helpless.
After a quiet spell and against the run of play, Stevenage broke forward and found a third with 69 minutes played.
A long ball upfield from Pett was knocked into the path of Newton by Godden, with the former Tamworth man bursting through the middle and driving a low shot past Flinders with the aid of a deflection.
Newton then had an impact at the other end, bravely blocking a well-driven shot with his face before falling flat on his back, much to the concern of everyone inside The Lamex. After a lengthy delay he was eventually replace by Samuel.
Pett rounded off the victory for Boro with a low effort well out of Flinders’ reach with 87 minutes on the clock to make the score 4-1, securing his brace and more importantly, all three points.
Sarll’s side are back in action at The Lamex next Saturday when Sky Bet Championship side Reading come to town for a highly anticipated clash in the third round of the FA Cup.
Stevenage: Fryer, Henry, King, Franks, Martin, Smith, McKee (Gorman 85), Pett, Kennedy, Newton (Samuel 73), Godden (Gray 90).
Cheltenham: Flinders, Moore, Winchester, Grimes, Boyle (Bower 75), Morell, Dawson, Atagana, Storer (Lloyd 75), Graham (Wright 46), Eisa.