Stevenage 3 Cambridge United 2
- Credit: Archant
Boro hit upon a winning formula to close in on League 2 play-off places
Stevenage moved to within three points of the League 2 play-off places with this win over Cambridge United.
It was a third straight victory for Graham Westley’s men – the first time Boro have achieved that in the league since April 2012 – but almost as tellingly, it was with an unchanged side from the team that defeated Dagenham and Redbridge on Boxing Day.
Things, it seems, are starting to gel, and no more so than in midfield where the central combination of Dean Parrett and David McAllister dominated proceedings from start to finish.
It is difficult to think of a better display at the heart of a Stevenage midfield in recent years with energy, determination, speed and creativity all in abundance.
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There was also width from Chris Whelpdale and Tom Pett, while up front the combination of Charlie Lee and Ryan Brunt reaped rewards early on before Brunt’s withdrawal on the stroke of half-time due to injury.
It is a combination put together recently by luck, due to injuries, as much as anything else, but luck often plays its part in a league season.
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The two strikers combined for the opening goal when Brunt played in Lee and, seeing Chris Dunn charging off his line, the midfielder-cum-striker side-footed his shot over the keeper and under the bar for 1-0.
Within eight minutes the visitors were back on level terms when Liam Hughes’ free-kick came back out to him, and he floated in a cross that Adam Cunnington headed to the far post and Ryan Bird flew in to poke the ball past Chris Day.
The goals kept coming, and on the half-hour mark it was 2-1 to the hosts.
Boro had noticed early on that Dunn was having problems coming off his line, and as such they used their wide players as often as they could. And when the ball was floated in from the left, Pett was there, beyond the last defender, to fire in a volley off the post.
Parrett then stormed forward and put his side 3-1 ahead with a stunning strike from distance.
Had United made three changes at the break, nobody would have been surprised, but they stuck with the same XI and made a fight of it early on.
That was until McAllister and Parrett once again took charge, while Roarie Deacon came off the bench to inject some pace. The winger was immediately involved, putting Chris Beardsley through but the striker shot wide.
United pulled one back with five minutes to go when Cunnington got on the end of a deep cross to divert the ball past Day, and then for Boro Lee’s ferocious drive, following good work from Beardsley, was palmed away from Dunn.
Stevenage, though, had done enough to end what has been a difficult year on a high.
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Okimo, Charles, Wells, McAllister, Whelpdale (Deaon 67), Pett, Parrett, Lee, Brunt (Beardsley 44). Subs: Beasant, Walton, Zola, Marriott, Conlon.
Cambridge Utd: Dunn, Tait, Taylor, Coulson, Miller, Champion, Cunnington, Simpson (Kaikai 72), Hughes, Chadwick Taylor 78), Bird (Chiedozie 72). Subs: Norris, Nelson, Atkinson, Hurst.
Ref: Fred Graham