Stevenage banish the poor run of results with deserved victory at home to Port Vale
- Credit: David Loveday/TGS Photo
It may have been a behind closed doors encounter but the roar that greeted the final whistle was probably as loud as if there were thousands of fans in attendance.
It ended 2-1 to Stevenage, only their second win and the first since September 19, and it showed with the relief behind the noise, delivered by staff and players alike.
Aramide Oteh and Danny Newton struck in each half to secure the three points but it was the manner of the performance that will be the most pleasing.
It wasn’t one that could be labelled dazzling but it was one that was full of grit and determination and when needed, that little bit of quality, all things that have been sorely lacking over the last couple of months.
And even when Devante Rodney pulled one back with 10 minutes to go, Stevenage showed that belief to close the game out.
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They made four changes, Luther-James-Wildin, Romain Vincelot, Luke Prosser and Danny Newton the men coming in at the expense of Ben Coker, Read, Arthur Iontton and Ross Marshall, all of whom dropped to the bench.
Port Vale too made four chances and started with Harry McKirdy up front but there was no place at all for another ex-Boro man Tom Conlon.
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The inclusion of the young striker would have brought a collective groan from home supporters had they been here, such is the football myth about old players scoring against old clubs.
By the time he touched the ball for the first time Stevenage should have been ahead and it wasn’t long after he did put foot to ball that the hosts did score.
Tom Pett had the first chance, racing on to a flick on but finding his low shot well saved by Valiants keeper Scott Brown.
However, Oteh showed him how it was done on 10 minutes, stepping on the outside of the defender and firing low from the right into the bottom left-hand corner.
And it wasn’t just the goal that made it a fantastic start to the match for Boro.
They were sharper all over the pitch for vast periods of the first half with their tackling, marking and desire to close down far better than in previous outings.
Part of that could have been the introduction of Prosser, Vincelot and Newton whose experience when the chips are down looked invaluable.
But others followed their lead, noticeably Remao Hutton, the full-back showing his intention with a perfectly fair but crunching tackle that left Mitch Clark down and receiving treatment for a few minutes.
Even manager Alex Revell seemed more animated than usual, barking out encouragement, instructions and rebukes with machine-gun regularity.
Hutton’s play in the loose was almost matched by his ability to sling a long throw in. One such instance was flicked on only for Pett to slip at just the wrong time.
Vale did have more possession in the latter stages of the half but never really threatened, one effort from Cristian Montano finding the back row of the South Stand.
Other attacks floundered on the strong defence, Scott Cuthbert a main player in that.
The only real other chances fell to Boro, Pett slipping in Newton after a promising break.
The shot was saved but the flag was up, the run of the forward just too early.
A corner with the last kick presented the home side with a golden opportunity to make it two but Newton somehow failed to connect properly when unmarked six yards out.
It had still been a great 45 minutes for the Lamex side, but one thing they have been overly guilty of this year has been not putting together a full 90-minute performance.
It was needed in the second half and for the opening minutes it looked ominous.
It wasn’t bad but the intensity wasn’t hitting the levels reached in the first period with clearances a little bit more rushed.
There hadn’t been any chances though and the biggest talking point in the opening eight minutes was the substitution of McKirdy.
A minute later there was something else to talk about though, a second for Stevenage.
Again it was relatively simple, a through ball threaded down the middle sent Newton away and he simply skipped round the keeper and rolled the ball into the back of the net.
He should have made it three not long after when a slip by Nathan Smith put him in again.
He opted to shoot early this time and Brown stuck out a foot to deflect it away from goal.
But what the second had done was given a shot in the arm to that confidence that may have been waning.
And the injection of that adrenalin rush saw Newton head a cross from the right wing just past the near post while Jack Smith fizzed an effort from the edge of the box inches beyond the far post.
Tom Pett winning a tackle in midfield almost brought a wonderful team goal, with Newton Charlie Carter and finally Oteh involved.
The shot lacked power but still needed Brown to grab it.
The shouts from the bench had also received a boost, giving an almost visible indication that they believed the victory was near.
Time after time they urged their players to work back and close down and put all the energy they had onto the pitch.
And it was working, until suddenly out of nowhere Port Vale suddenly scored.
Rodney seemed unlikely to get a shot away when he picked up the ball on the right, but not only did he do just that, his effort flashed into the far corner.
It changed the dynamic of the game and Rodney was proving the man most likely to break Boro hearts.
He flashed one over while Jamie Cumming had to tip another over the bar.
But there was still some defiant defending and even when Brown was sent forward to challenge for a last-gasp set-piece, the hosts stood firm before unleashing their primal roar of victory.
Stevenage: Cumming, James-Wildin, Vincelot, Cuthbert, Prosser, Carter (Marshall 81), Newton (List 83), Hutton, J.Smith (Ironton 83), Pett, Oteh (Effiong 90+1).
Subs (not used): Johnson, Coker
Goals: Oteh 10, Newton 54
Port Vale: Brown, N.Smith, Worrall, Oyeleke, Montano (Rodney 66), Robinson, Brisley, Clark, Burgess, McKirdy (Cullen 53), Fitzpatrick.
Subs (not used): Visser, Crookes, Mills, Hurst.
Goals: Rodney 80
Booked: Brisley 14, Oyeleke 16
HT: Stevenage 1 Port Vale 0
Referee: Paul Howard (Lewisham)