Stevenage sturdy at the back but Bees do enough for a point
PUBLISHED: 19:05 23 January 2016 | UPDATED: 19:05 23 January 2016
Stevenage were held to a goalless draw by visitors Barnet in a match peppered with too few shots and too many peeps from the referee’s whistle.
A crowd of almost 4,000 were in attendance for what could have been a lively, action-packed match between two sides that earlier in the season had traded blows in a five-goal encounter.
But instead there weren’t even five chances of note as Barnet’s injury-ravaged front line – they were missing four strikers including top scorer John Akinde – failed to ignite and Boro were unable to take advantage.
In what is a transitional season for the hosts, this felt like a transitional game.
Two of the club’s starting XI – Offrande Zanzala and Luke Wilkinson – have just joined the club, while another new face – Deimantas Petravicius – was on the bench.
Add to that the fact that striker Aaron O’Connor and midfielder Keith Keane, in his second stint at the club, were both playing in just their second match for the club since joining on loan last week and it may take a little bit of time for things to gel.
Stevenage were still the livelier of the two sides, especially in the second half, and Zanzala in particular had a debut he would have enjoyed.
The youngster was watched twice by Teddy Sheringham playing for Derby U21s recently, including against Arsenal, and after bringing in the teenager for training on Tuesday the Boro boss was more than happy to hand him his first professional start.
The 18-year-old came up against two former Boro defenders in Bondz N’Gala and Bira Dembele, and against the imposing duo he held his own before limping from the pitch late on.
He’ll be nursing a knock or two this evening, but he can be more than satisfied with the shift he put in as he ran the channels and gave as good as he got in any physical battles.
At the back Wilkinson, fresh from signing from Luton Town, was steady throughout and already looks like a good piece of business for a Boro side that had conceded 50 league goals before this game.
O’Connor poked a shot wide in the first half while Michael Tonge had a free-kick saved by Jamie Stephens, but in a lacklustre first half there was little else on offer.
Barnet, already without their key forwards, also lost both Sam Togwell and Gavin Hoyte to injury.
In the second period Tonge nodded at Stephens from eight yards while Chris Hackett hacked his shot wide, but in truth the two goalkeepers rarely had the chance to dirty their gloves.
Sheringham will welcome more time with his new players on the training ground as he looks to drag his side out of this mid-season slump.
They are now eight points off the relegation zone and next weekend must make the trip to basement side York City, who drew today with Carlisle United.
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Ogilvie, Franks, Wilkinson, Pett (Petravicius 91), Keane, Tonge, Lee (Conlon 79), O’Connor, Zanzala (Akinyemi 68). Subs: Jackson, Wells, McCombe, Gorman.
Barnet: Stephens, Hoyte (Randall 43), Johnson, Dembele, N’Gala, Weston, Gambin, Togwell (Sesay 30), Champion (Taylor 69), Batt, Hackett. Subs: McKenzie-Lyle, Muggleton, Tomlinson, Shomotun.
Att: 3,801 (943 away)