So Long, suckers

Stacy Long hits an absolute screamer as Boro take advantage of comedy defending

Stevenage 4 Barnet 2

npower League 2

Stevenage returned to winning ways in the league with a scintillating display against a dismal Barnet side.

Ex-Boro boss Paul Fairclough would have been relishing his return to his old stomping ground when he was handed the Barnet reins on Saturday afternoon following the dismissal of Mark Stimson but his side, and especially his back line, crumbled to defeat before his very eyes.

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Forced to field rookie 18-year-old ’keeper Tom Coulton as a last minute replacement for Jake Cole whom a clearly annoyed Fairclough said had ruled himself out of the game, Barnet were hindered from the off and Boro took full advantage.

Luke Foster, making his second successive start in place of injured Jon Ashton, struck on just four minutes when he got foot to ball from Stacy Long’s corner and the goal clearly gave the visitors the jitters.

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Coulton’s kicking was off but he was not helped by some poor defending in front of him from a back line lacking in confidence, and this was summed up in dramatic style just three minutes after Boro’s opener.

Chris Day put his foot through a long kick which went 70 yards up field and fell to Grant Basey who was facing his own goal.

Whether he was trying to put the ball out of play or trying to hook over his head is unclear, but what happened next was unambiguous: Basey got his foot to the ball and directed a lob back towards goal, over the unlucky Coulton and into his own net. It was a genuine comedic howler.

Boro could not believe their luck, and with Charlie Griffin and Chris Beardsley putting in hard work in the final third Stevenage forced their opponents into numerous mistakes.

When Barnet did go forward it was often through counter-attacks courtesy of Ricky Holmes and Mark Marshall, but they rarely broke through the Boro back line.

At the other it was three for Stevenage when Long hit the goal of the game, and quite possibly the best goal anyone will see at the Lamex this year.

Rob Sinclair worked a one-two with Griffin down the right and from the wing produced a deep cross over the head of Beardsley in the box. At the far post Long was lurking and as the ball curled towards him he pirouetted on the spot and hit a jaw-dropping volley past Coulton.

There was just 27 minutes on the clock, and already Stevenage had all the points in the bag.

At half time manager Graham Westley told his players to come out strong at the start of the second period, and they did just that with Mark Roberts heading home a Beardsley flick to the far post with just a minute gone.

Boro passed the ball well and if there was any doubt before the match that with Newcastle United waiting on the horizon Stevenage players would shirk challenges to avoid injury, all doubt were laid to rest in a thoroughly committed display even when the game was secure.

There was a rocky 10-minute period at around the 70-minute mark when Barnet pulled a goal back through the previously missing Izale McLeod before hitting a surprised Boro with a second three minutes later when Marshall curled a terrific shot into the corner, but Stevenage’s lead never looked in doubt and they could have added a fifth but for the post keeping our Beardsley’s powerful strike.

Fairclough said afterwards that it wasn’t far off being men against boys.

He wasn’t far wrong.

Stevenage (4-4-2): Day 7, Laird 7, Wilson 7, Foster 8, Roberts 7, Long 8, Mousinho 7, Sinclair 7 (Odubade, 66), Bostwick 8, Griffin 7 (Winn, 66 (May, 90)), Beardsley 7.

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