Stevenage through in FA Cup but only after an uninspiring penalty shoot-out win over non-league Concord Rangers
- Credit: Danny Loo/TGS Photo
Stevenage’s hugely disappointing season continued – even though they scrambled to a 5-4 penalty shoot-out win at home to Concord Rangers in the first round of the FA Cup.
The two sides had drawn 2-2 after extra-time. Ben Coker had fired Stevenage ahead in the first half of normal time with his first for the club only for Alex Wall to equalise two minutes before the break.
It remained that way until the first half of extra time when substitute Danny Newton pounced, seemingly to put the League Two team into the hat for the next round.
Odei Martin levelled though with just over 10 minutes to go, however, a save from Jamie Cumming and five very good penalties put Boro through after the shoot-out.
It was always set-up to be a horrible day for Boro. Just two wins from their opening 14 games, one of them in the EFL Trophy, never mind the seven league games in a succession without a goal, have put a worrying cloud over the Lamex Stadium.
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With that record the last thing they would have wanted is the visit of a National League South side who, with just one win in four league games, had precious little to lose.
But the nature of the performance was not what was needed. A team low on confidence they may be but they did themselves no favours with often slow and ponderous attacking play against a solid and well-organised defence.
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Supporters watching on streams would have expected much, much more.
Stevenage gave Tom Pett a re-initiation into the ranks, Inih Effiong the only other player brought into the starting line-up from Tuesday’s disappointing defeat at Colchester United.
Wall proved from the first minute he would be a handful for the Boro defence, both he and Prosser locked horns early with both guilty of infringements and shirt pulling from time to time.
The home side had plenty of the ball throughout the first half but for all their possession, chances were limited.
A run across the edge of the box by Elliot List brought a foul from Brendon Shabani and a free-kick in a good position. Effiong, however, fired harmlessly over.
Marcus Dinanga dragged another one wide after good work down the left by Pett and Effiong.
Pett, only signed in the week after his release from Lincoln City, was looking the more likely to be Stevenage’s creative force, picking the ball up from deep or popping up in advanced positions, and so it proved on 28 minutes.
He did well to keep the ball alive again on the left and his pullback found Coker.
The shot was on target but the deflection ensured it crept inside Chris Haigh’s near post with the keeper diving the other way.
But just as it looked like Boro would reach the interval with their lead intact, Rangers equalised.
The ball was dropped behind a static back four, all of whom were waiting for an offside flag when Sam Blackman poked it towards the back post.
It never came then and it didn’t come when Wall tapped home from a yard.
It was perhaps deserved on the balance of play but did little to lift the pensive mood around the ground, or in the dressing room.
The second half saw no real change in the opening stages, although it very nearly brought a second for the non-league side.
Blackman got through in acres of space and even though his shot was straight at Jamie Cumming, it still needed the keeper to push it up and over.
Stevenage though were slow in their probing, Concord pulling 10 men behind the ball as soon as they lost it.
Effiong did have one good chance but took one touch too many as he tried to turn on the six-yard line and then List and Dinanga were crowded out by good defending, notably from Tyrone Sterling.
Wall forced a good save out of Cumming from a tight angle but with time ticking away, Stevenage boss Alex Revell changed things up with the introduction of Newton for Effiong.
Luther James-Wildin found himself playing further and further forward but at time neither he, nor his team-mates, looking happy just putting a cross into the box.
And the frustrations that and the increasingly over-hit and speculative balls forward was causing the strikers was only too evident.
The day was all but summed up in the 89th minute when Stevenage launched a counter attack. There was space to run but it was too slow, the running too predictable and the ball was easily picked off over 30 yards from the Concord goal.
The visitors almost grabbed a late winner, Blackman juggling it before hitting a volley straight at Cumming.
Unlike the qualifying rounds, the first round had a period of extra-time. That may not have been greeted with happiness had there been a crowd in the ground but they would have been cheering on 99 minutes when Newton forced the ball home.
It was definitely at the scrappy end of untidy but Boro didn’t care. Pett did well down the left once more but it was Aramide Oteh who took the plaudits, nipping in ahead of Haigh to keep the ball alive.
And when he pulled it into the middle, Newton took a touch and knocked it home.
But if you thought that would open the floodgates, or tiredness would suddenly affect the part-time side, then you were wrong.
A ball was lifted into the middle four minutes after the restart in the extra period where an unmarked Martin was waiting, and he headed home from close range.
Oteh was sharp and bright for the home side as they frantically searched for a third, bringing one good stop from Haigh.
Cumming produced a stunning save to keep Boro in the tie, diving full-length to his left in added time, before doing likewise, only to his right, in the first round of penalties to deny Tosan Popo.
He got his hands to a couple of others without keeping them out but confident shooting from 12 yards from Stevenage meant they are through.
They will need to be so much better though in future ties.
Stevenage: Cumming, James-Wildin, Coker, Cuthbert (Marshall 53), Prosser, Carter, Effiong (Newton 66), List, Read, Dinanga (Oteh 77), Pett (Osborne 110).
Subs (not used): Johnson, Hutton, Akinwande.
Goals: Coker 28, Newton 99
Concord Rangers: Haigh, Pollock, Popo, Blackman, Scott, Sterling (Hanfrey 100), Raad (Bridge 81), Shabani, Wall (Hughes 72), Martin, Babalola (Reynolds 90+4).
Subs (not used): Hughes, Remfry, Green, Roast.
Goals: Wall 43, Martin 109
Booked: Martin 39, Pollock 104
HT: Stevenage 1 Concord Rangers 1
FT: Stevenage 1 Concord Rangers 1
Popo (CON) saved; Wildin (STE) scored - 0-1
Hanfrey (CON) scored; Osborne (STE) scored - 1-2
Bridge (CON) scored; Carter (STE) scored - 2-3
Hughes (CON) scored; List (STE) scored - 3-4
Reynolds (CON) scored; Oteh (STE) scored - 4-5
Referee: John Busby (Oxford)