Stevenage's old war horses claim three big points with win over Walsall

Chris Lines heads home the second goal for Stevenage against Walsall.

Chris Lines heads home the second goal for Stevenage against Walsall. - Credit: DAVID LOVEDAY/TGS PHOTO

American playwright David Mamet is often credited with the phrase 'old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance'.

Whether that is true or not is a conversation for another day but Paul Tisdale's transfer policy so far in January has definitely leaned on that philosophy.

And they needed plenty of that experience to take the three points in a 3-1 win over Walsall at the Lamex Stadium.

They had roared into a two-goal lead in the opening eight minutes thanks to an own goal and a header from Chris Lines, the eldest player in their side, and looked comfortable for the rest of the half.

Walsall were better after the break but Stevenage defended resolutely before Jake Taylor pounced to seal the first three points of Tisdale's reign.

There were four changes from the side that started the 2-0 loss to Forest Green Rovers and it took the average age from an already high 29.1 to 30.7 with seven of the 11 aged 30 or above.

Christy Pym, Luke O'Neill and the returning Michael Bostwick were the three debutants with Taylor the fourth drafted in.

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Luther James-Wildin and Terence Vancooten dropped to the bench while Adam Smith and Elliott List missed out altogether, the latter with injury.

Another new signing Ed Upson was on the bench.

Stevenage celebrate Chris Line putting them 2-0 ahead at home to Walsall.

Stevenage celebrate Chris Line putting them 2-0 ahead at home to Walsall. - Credit: DAVID LOVEDAY/TGS PHOTO

Last season the two sides had conjured up an opening goal in 16 seconds, the visitors capitalising on a Jamie Cumming error.

This time it was Walsall who made the faux-pas after 24 seconds, Rollin Menayese sticking a foot out to deflect an O'Neill cross into his own net, the goalkeeper having come out to gather the cross behind him

It got better eight minutes later with Jake Reeves getting down the same right wing, delivering a cross to the back post where Lines headed down and inside Carl Rushworth's near post.

Reeves was a constant thorn for the Saddlers, getting down the right on a couple of occasions despite his starting position in the middle of the park.

One more delivery from that side again found Lines but this time he opted to head it back into the middle and it was cleared.

There was a good shout for a penalty when Luke Norris went down after contact in the back and Taylor sent a chance wide right at the end of the half, one that was pretty comfortable for the home team.

Walsall departed to a chorus of boos as their travelling support made their feelings known and they had fair reason too.

Bar a series of corners and one shot from Stephen Ward deflected behind by Luke Prosser and Scott Cuthbert, they offered very little going forward and looked shambolic at the back, their bench screaming for players to pick their men up every time Stevenage had a set-piece in the final third.

The only down side for Boro was the loss of Bostwick on 41 minutes to injury, although that allowed Upson to come on for his debut in a like-for-like swap.

Changes were expected from the visitors after the interval, at least in terms of tactics and desire if not personnel, and the Saddlers were much more on the front foot.

Getting shots on target still proved a problem, Ward and Conor Wilkinson both fired over, and every now and then Boro broke with menace, although with a similar lack of a cutting edge.

There was some irony therefore that Walsall pulled back by breaking themselves, Jack Earing finding Brendan Kiernan who in turn found a gap inside Pym's near post.

All of Stevenage's experience was needed for the remaining 20 minutes, Prosser taking a booking and then delaying the showing of the card, while Ben Coker won a free-kick and took as long as possible to climb off the turf.

There were still chances for Walsall too, Wilkinson forcing Pym to reach high and grasp a curling shot heading into the top corner.

Charlie Carter almost eased the nervousness of the last few minutes by deflecting a cross from the right over the keeper and onto the crossbar but in truth there was no panic to tell Mr Mainwaring.

And after Carter had another cleared off the line in stoppage time, Taylor wrapped up the victory.

Stevenage: Pym, Coker, Reeves, Cuthbert, Prosser, Taylor, Norris (Vancooten 82), Andrade, Lines, O'Neill, Bostwick (Upson 41).

Subs (not used): Walker, James-Wildin, Carter, Daly, Reid.

Goals: Rollin Menayese (og) 1, Lines 8, Taylor 90+4

Booked: Cuthbert 35, Prosser 74

Walsall: Rushworth, White, Ward, Labide, Kiernan (Shade 81), Wilkinson, Miller (Phillips 61), Earing, Khan, Mills, Menayse. 

Subs (not used): Rose, Kinsella, Osadebe, Leak, Perry.

Goal: Kiernan 70

Booked: Menayese 27, Wilkinson 76

HT: Stevenage 2 Walsall 0

Referee: James Oldham (Erewash, Derbyshire)

Attendance: 2,167 (358 from Walsall)