Monday 26th December, 2011. The Weston Homes Community Stadium
Stevenage came into the match against Colchester United in a rich vein of form, having been unbeaten in the league since October.
The game was played on Boxing Day in front of a crowd of 5,276 – of which a fair number of Boro fans had made the journey up the A12 to watch their team – they weren’t disappointed as they witnessed Boro record their biggest ever win in the Football League (at that time).
Colchester United 1 – 6 Stevenage FC
|Henderson (51)||Shroot (9)|
|Attendance: 5,276||Byrom (82)|
|Manager: John Ward||Manager: Graham Westley|
|Team Sheet||Team Sheet|
|01 Williams||16 Day|
|03 Rose (Coker – 80′)||02 Wilson|
|04 Okuonghae||03 Laird|
|06 Heath||05 Ashton|
|20 Wilson||14 Roberts|
|08 O’Toole (Gillespie – 73′)||25 Henry|
|14 Bond||13 Byrom|
|23 James||24 Bostwick|
|27 Deguid||32 Shroot (Freeman – 57′)|
|15 Odejayi||18 Cowan (Edwards – 57′)|
|16 Henderson||20 Beardsley (Harrison – 75′)|
|18 Eastman||01 Julian|
|25 White||06 Edwards|
|10 Izzett||22 Aneke|
|24 Coker||15 Freeman|
|09 Gillespie||26 Harrison|
As the game kicked off, with Boro playing towards the home end, there were a few nervous moments in the early stages – not least when Colchester forward Odejayi broke through the Boro defence and somehow managed to shoot wide when one on one with Chris Day. It was an early warning for the visitors – and in truth, a let off.
At the other end of the pitch, Don Cowan – making his first start for Stevenage, was causing mayhem for the home side. His persistent runs at the defence paid off after just 9 minutes, as Cowan found Beardsley in front of goal. Rather than shoot himself, Beardsley squared the ball to Robin Shroot – who couldn’t miss an empty net from the 6 yard line.
‘The Don’ was again involved in Boro’s second goal on 25 minutes. Cowan turned his defender 35 yards out from goal and the pacy forward was never going to be caught (at least not legitimately). As Cowan’s legs were taken out from under him, he managed to pass the ball onto an unmarked Chris Beardsley. The referee allowed play to continue, and after composing himself, the ball was duly placed in the back of the net.
The stunned silence of the home fans was made all the more amusing by a rousing rendition of ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’ from the Boro faithful – in keeping with the festive spirits.
The remainder of the first half didn’t bring much more action – although Colchester did rally themselves after the break and came out fighting. A deep ball across goal was steered back to Ian Henderson, who calmly headed past Day from 6 yards out on 51 minutes.
The goal seemed to spark a change in the Boro side as rather than sitting back and trying to weather the storm and defend the one goal lead, they went on the attack.
The game was put beyond Colchester in the 64th minute as Michael Bostwick dodged a couple of strong tackles and found the ball at his feet some 30 yards out. Any Boro fan of recent years knew exactly what was going to happen next – although it seems Colchester hadn’t read the script and stood back to let him shoot. Bostwick didn’t disappoint – his powerful strike flying past the helpless keeper into the bottom right corner, making it 1-3 Boro.
In the 71st minute, Stevenage won a free kick just outside the Colchester penalty area. The team assumed positions in a free kick manoeuvre that had been tried countless times earlier in the season – and had never worked. This time it did, with the ball being played around the Colchester wall, allowing Scott Laird to fire past the keeper to extend the Boro lead.
2 minutes later, Arsenal loanee Luke Freeman added to the Boro score with a powerful strike from just inside the box – giving the visitors a four goal advantage.
The away fans were rapturous – and were chanting to Colchester boss John Ward that he was to be “Sacked in the morning” – a chant made even more amusing as the home fans joined in with cheers. Even the stewards looking after the away end were laughing at the amusing songs.
The “We want 6” chant was duly noted after 82 minutes, as Joel Byrom found himself clear of the home defence, with a fair distance to travel to goal. His finish was exquisite as he calmly curled the ball left footed around the keeper from 20 yards out – the ball going in off the foot of the post.
The finishing stages of the game also saw some comedy moments, most notably when one of the home defenders was physically sick at the side of the pitch, having been ran ragged by Lawrie Wilson the whole game.
And for anyone at the match, who could forget the moment when Jon Ashton found himself half way up the right wing with a man to beat? Seeing Ash beating the Colchester left back with not one, but two Cruyff turns is something we may never see again.
If was a truly amazing day for the club and the visiting fans – and as a moment in history, it was recorded as our (then) largest win in the Football League.