Boro one step closer to play-offs
Stevenage Boro 2 Aldershot 1 THIS was the first of the 11 wins that Graham Westley said his side will need to clinch a place in the end of season play-offs. The manager, writing in his exclusive monthly column in The Comet last week, added that the attit
Stevenage Boro 2 Aldershot 1
THIS was the first of the 11 wins that Graham Westley said his side will need to clinch a place in the end of season play-offs.
The manager, writing in his exclusive monthly column in The Comet last week, added that the attitude of the players was vital in the next few months.
It was spot-on on Saturday as they deservedly overcame a robust Aldershot outfit.
The Shots featured the combative pair of former Boro captain Steve Watson and Gary Holloway and this was certainly not a game for the weak willed.
Evidence of this is the fact that referee Beck deemed it necessary to award an incredible 50 free-kicks during the match - an average of one foul less than every two minutes!
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Despite these regular interruptions, the first 45 minutes had a good pace to it.
Tunisian Dino Maamria returned in his now familiar role of central midfield, while Jon Nurse and Darryn Stamp were the two Boro strikers.
It was Aldershot's front two who caused some early concern for the hosts.
The offside flag was already raised on both occasions as Leroy Griffiths thumped a shot against the woodwork and then Jonny Dixon fired over from the inside the six-yard box.
Nurse had a gilt-edged opportunity to ease Boro worries when strike partner Stamp flicked on a header.
The pacy forward was clean through but lost his nerve when confronted by Nikki Bull and the keeper made the save.
Bull was also one of the central figures as Boro untidily took the lead after 16 minutes.
Dannie Bulman's cross was picked up by George Boyd on the edge of the area, whose clever shimmy created a shooting opportunity. His effort was scuffed but it was enough to defeat Bull, perhaps unsighted, as the ball rolled in off the post.
Their lead lasted less than two minutes though. Boro failed to clear their lines properly and new boy Luke Oliver's header fell to Nick Crittenden on the edge of the penalty area.
Unlike Boyd's effort, Crittenden struck left-footed with venom and it flew past Alan Julian for the equaliser.
The Boro number one did well to push away Griffiths' shot to prevent a second minutes later.
Bull was equally alert when he turned away another Boyd shot, following good work from Bulman, before the keeper was involved in another key incident.
Nurse made a hash of his initial header and was then hauled down by the keeper as the pair contested the loose ball. It seemed a clear penalty but in keeping with some other of his strange decisions during the half, the referee thought otherwise.
The lively Nurse headed just past the post from a deep David Perpetuini free-kick as the half ended.
This intensity was maintained in the opening minutes of the new half as Shots looked to gain the advantage.
Julian and the ball were bundled into the net and it was probably one of the easier decisions of the afternoon to rule it out for an obvious infringement.
The keeper was luckier minutes later when he lost a duel with Dixon but the striker could only sidefoot into the side netting from a tight angle.
Nurse and Stamp took the aerial route for Boro, one saved low down by Bull and the other's effort going narrowly wide.
Play was becoming increasingly niggly and two cautions in 10 minutes for Darren Barnard saw the former Welsh international full-back take an early bath.
This left the Shots to hold out with 10 men for the last 15 minutes, a task which was beyond them.
Boro punished them within 60 seconds as Bulman's cross was headed back into the danger area by Stamp and Maamria stretched to score.
The Shots pushed for a late equaliser as sub Matt Somner headed just over from a Crittenden corner and Julian safely held a fierce hit from Griffiths.