Exeter’s equaliser was a long shot
Exeter City 1 Stevenage Boro 1 MARK VENABLES reports Just three minutes separated Stevenage Boro from a three-point haul from a challenging trip to St James Park on Saturday. With the clock running down, and Stevenage contentedly defending the second-hal
Exeter City 1 Stevenage Boro 1
MARK VENABLES reports
Just three minutes separated Stevenage Boro from a three-point haul from a challenging trip to St James' Park on Saturday.
With the clock running down, and Stevenage contentedly defending the second-half lead provided by Steve Guppy's first goal for the club, Billy Jones fired in a speculative 35-yard free-kick that sailed over Alan Julian and nestled into the net.
It was a bitter blow to a Boro side that had deserved their lead from a disciplined and enterprising performance that highlighted the growing maturity and confidence within Mark Stimson's side.
"To come here and get three points would have been fantastic, but one point was still good," said Stimson.
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"I said to the players before the game that we had to build on Tuesday's performance, all that hard work we put in and the good defending, if we could put that in against Exeter then we would come away with something.
"And if you come away from Exeter with something you have got to be pleased."
If anything, the display on Saturday was even better than Tuesday's battling victory over high-flying Weymouth.
Not only were the defensive quartet again sound, with Santos Gaia back to his commanding best for his return to his old stomping ground, but the midfield displayed both energy and guile.
After an early scare when Lee Phillips broke the offside trap before firing just wide, Boro established control.
With Dwane Lee and Mark Beard stifling the Exeter threat in the centre of the park, Guppy and Craig Dobson were free to forage down the flanks.
"The most important thing was the first 20 minutes, trying to quieten the crowd down, because when they are kicking towards their own fans it can get very intimidating," added Stimson.
"I just told them to be strong, they're all strong enough, especially the back four which is looking nice and solid.
"In the second half we asked ourselves if we could maybe be a little bit more positive going forwards and ask them a few questions and we certainly did that at the start of the half."
The home side started brightly in the second period, Jon Richardson heading wide after beating Julian to a cross and the goalkeeper getting down well to fumble a shot from Dan Woodward around the post.
After that brief flurry Boro gained the ascendancy again. Dobson hit the bar from a cross by Guppy, Morison failing to convert the rebound, and when the ball was fired back across the penalty area, Guppy was allowed time and space to fire home.
Morison could have sealed the points midway through the half when sent clear but his powerful, rising drive was expertly tipped over the bar by Martin Rice, and a Boyd effort 10 minutes later suffered a similar fate.
But with a second win in a week looking on the cards, Boyd conceded a soft free-kick 35 yards from goal and up stepped Jones to salvage a point for the home side.
There was naturally a disappointed air about the team after being denied so late on in the game but the portents are good after such a polished performance.
If the improvement is maintained it will not be long until Boro start climbing the table.