Fan column: What a difference a week makes for Stevenage
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
It has been a weird year for many but in football terms, very few fans have had as tumultuous a time as us supporters of Stevenage.
Manager sackings, court hearings, a pandemic, relegation-then-survival, it’s had the lot for Boro and unfortunately most of it has been pretty dismal, with just two wins from 25 League Two fixtures heading into last week.
Leading up to Tuesday’s fixture against Port Vale, despite an unwavering appetite for former Boro favourite Alex Revell to succeed in the managerial hot seat, faith had begun to waiver amongst even the most ardent of Revell fans, with Boro three points adrift of safety and having failed to win in 14 matches.
Fast forward seven days and what a difference a week makes. Following a high intensity and dominant 2-1 victory over Port Vale, Boro followed this up with a memorable penalty shoot-out victory over League One leaders Hull City on Sunday to send the club into the FA Cup third round.
All this followed a positive, albeit unsuccessful, second-half fightback against Bolton the week before.
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While one swallow doesn’t make a summer, there are signs that this Stevenage side have finally turned the corner following those two sensational performances at the Lamex.
Revell’s change of formation to a 4-4-2 diamond has worked wonders and seems to suit the plethora of midfielders at the club.
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Similarly, in Remi Oteh and Danny Newton, the latter of which is showing signs of being back to his best, the team has two impressive strikers who will never stop harrying opposition defences.
The squad is also showing signs of depth too. In the most unprecedented of seasons, selection consistency, that many fans crave, is going to be impossible, with Boro facing arguably their heaviest schedule ever.
So-called fringe players have come in for the last two games with Terence Vancooten, who has regularly failed to make the match day squad this season, putting in a supreme performance over Hull City.
Similarly, Jack Smith and Romain Vincelot came into the side against Port Vale and showed class, while both held their nerve, dispatching their penalties on Sunday.
In truth, all the squad have stepped up, but it would only be right to hail the impact of Tom Pett since returning to the club.
The midfielder looks a different player to the one that left for Lincoln City in 2018 and is a class above at this level. Pett is crucial to Boro’s new formation, making everything tick, and therefore keeping him injury-free will be key for Revell.
Similarly, Sunday’s penalty saves highlighted his talent but in Jamie Cumming, Boro have arguably the best keeper in League Two and one who is topping the save percentage charts.
Cumming’s shot-stopping is imperious but it is his command of the area that stands out, with his authority and organisation belying his tender age. Could the on-loan Chelsea keeper be rivalling some of Boro’s best ever loanees?
While some will point to facing an under-strength Hull side who made 10 changes, the Tigers’ squad would still be the envy of many in the league above while Stevenage also rotated with four changes of their own, all who performed magnificently.
“I’m delighted with the result and to get through obviously but the best thing for me and the thing I’m most happy with is the character of the team and their solidarity. The way they worked today hopefully shows how far we’ve come,” Revell said post-match, and it is easy to forget that he is building a completely new squad.
Coupled with a disrupted pre-season, it was always going to take time to gel.
The relentless desire and work rate on display made Sunday’s win one of the best Stevenage performances for a long time and the togetherness of the celebrations afterwards demonstrated unity.
The release of emotions on social media from Stevenage fans too showed what it meant after a miserable period.
Boro now head into a crucial chapter with two winnable fixtures against Walsall and struggling Southend up this week.
Along with the return of fans on Saturday, Revell must now build on the momentum of Stevenage’s near perfect seven days and back it up with more wins.
How great would that be?