Stevenage expecting a reaction and a 'true test' against Stockport County
- Credit: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO
Steve Evans is under no illusion about how tough the return of League Two football to the Lamex will be with Stockport County the opposition.
The Hatters are still classed as joint favourites for the title despite an opening day loss to Barrow, which saw them trail 3-0 at half-time at their Edgeley Park home before eventually succumbing to a 3-2 defeat.
And the Boro boss is prepared for a backlash on Saturday.
He said: "We know how tough it will be. They will bring a good-sized support and they’ll be smarting and hurting from last week.
"They have an up and coming manager who I know expects them to be in League One next year.
"That’s the size of the task. They were the best team in the National League last year by a stretch.
"If they’d been in League Two, I think they were that good they would have got promoted.
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"I’ve watched a number of their pre-season games this week and I compared the first half last week to the second and if I was Dave Challinor, I wouldn’t recognise the players in the shirts.
"Second half he made two changes and changed the shape of the team and wow, he got a reaction so much so that they should have got a point out of the game and maybe should have won it.
"They’ll come here and be organised and efficient but we then have to stand up and to a team who I have no doubt will be in the top six this season."
The game follows a fabulous opening day for Boro and a 2-1 win away to Tranmere Rovers.
They are another who are expected to be challenging for the play-offs at least but the threat they posed to Boro wll be completely different to the one County will bring.
Evans said: "They are chalk and cheese in how they’ve built the squads.
"Micky [Mellon] has built a young team at Tranmere, primarily going with a strategy of three of four older players and brought or kept young players in and around them.
"Stockport have gone down a completely different route. They have spent a lot of money on tried and tested players who have played at a higher level.
"It’s a completely different model.
"As an experienced manager I am always more wary of playing against tried and tested players who have come from the Championship and League One.
"Saturday will be a true test."
They will go into the game without Elliott List, the injury sustained at Tranmere being more serious than first feared and requiring an operation.
That will mean at least one change in the starting line-up and Evans hinted there may be more.
The boss said: "There’s always a temptation when you play as well as we did against Tranmere to say ‘that’s how we’ll play’.
"As a manager, when I’ve been successful, I’ve always been able to plan one or two matches ahead and think this will suit them or that will suit another in terms of how they play.
"There may be a couple of changes come Saturday but it will be thought out and analysed in as far as we can.
"We’ll then be a different model when we go to Reading [in the League Cup]."