Sunday 15th May, 2011. The Lamex Stadium
Following the dramatic 3-3 home match against already promoted Bury, Boro forced their way into the League 2 play-offs, narrowly edging out Gillingham on the final day of the season.
A heavily depleted Boro squad were to face in form side Accrington Stanley, who were unbeaten in their last 13 appearances. The Boro bench was missing a number of regular squad players through injuries and suspension (Mousinho) – and even club coach Dino Maamria was named as a makeshift substitute in order to fill the 7 substitute spots.
The match itself was made even spicier by a flare up in the same fixture earlier in the season, where Accrington scored a late equaliser and celebrated in front of the Boro dug-out, causing angry scenes.
Stevenage FC 2 - 0 Accrington Stanley
|Byrom (45)||Attendance: 4,424|
|Manager: Graham Westley||Manager: John Coleman|
|Team Sheet||Team Sheet|
|16 Day||01 Cisak|
|02 Wilson||03 Winnard|
|03 Laird||04 Hessey|
|04 Charles (Murphy – 83′)||12 Edwards|
|05 Ashton||26 Jacobson|
|14 Roberts||06 Procter|
|25 Henry||07 Ryan|
|08 Long (Beardsley - 75′ )||11 McConville|
|13 Byrom||14 Joyce|
|24 Bostwick||27 Craney (Putterill – 81′)|
|10 Reid (Harrison- 75′)||24 Gornell|
|29 Welch||25 Dunbavin|
|31 Marjarson||05 Long|
|07 Murphy||13 Richardson|
|17 Winn||17 Murphy|
|20 Beardsley||08 Barnett|
|26 Harrison||10 Putterill|
|27 Maamria||09 Lindfield|
As the game kicked off, with Boro shooting towards the North Terrace, the early exchanges were understandably nervous – with neither side really claiming an advantage. Both sides were looking to attack – and it was Boro who struck first. It was a fortunate goal as a ball into the penalty area got caught between Mark Roberts’ legs, before Stacy Long fired it goalwards – the ball taking a wicked deflection off Sean Hessey as it wrongfooted Alex Cisak in the Stanley goal.
The match continued, with both sides making chances, but neither carving out any clear cut opportunities – until just before the stroke of half time. A ball headed over the top from Darius Charles saw the Stanley keeper Cisak and Joel Byrom rushing for the ball – the Boro man being a half pace quicker and toe poking the ball past the keeper to claim Boro’s second.
The second half saw a measured Boro performance as the team consolidated their lead and frustrated the visitors – ensuring there would be no way back into the match. The chances were few and far between, although fans who were at the Lamex that evening will remember the heart stopping moment when Scott Laird underplayed a back pass which McConville ran onto – leaving him one on one with Chris Day. The heart stopping moment soon turned to all out laughter as McConville attempted to round the keeper, only to lose his footing and fall over – the ball going harmlessly wide of the post. A let off for Boro.
The game duly ended with Boro taking a two goal lead into the away fixture at the Crown Ground the following Friday – although even the most optimistic Boro fans weren’t entirely sure that two goals would be enough. Accrington had a near perfect home record that season, and despite the comments about the state of their pitch (due to a failed drainage solution) – it was clear they really knew how to maximise their home advantage.
Friday 20th May, 2011. The Crown Ground
The return leg was played just 5 days later – the Boro squad, still heavily depleted through injuries, were unable to field seven substitutes- although the talking point was the absence of injured Boro centre half Jon Ashton. Before the match, Stanley manager John Coleman was fired up – convinced his side could overturn the two goal deficit in front of their home fans – it was hard to argue, as the Crown Ground really had been a fortress for most of their season.
Accrington Stanley 0 - 1 Stevenage FC
|Manager: John Coleman||Manager: Graham Westley|
|Team Sheet||Team Sheet|
|01 Cisak||16 Day|
|03 Winnard||02 Wilson (Winn – 90′)|
|04 Hessey||03 Laird|
|12 Edwards||04 Charles (Beardsley – 77′)|
|26 Jacobson||14 Roberts|
|06 Procter||25 Henry|
|07 Ryan||07 Murphy|
|11 McConville||08 Long|
|14 Joyce||13 Byrom|
|27 Brady (Turner – 62′)||24 Bostwick|
|24 Gornell||10 Reid (Harrison- 45′)|
|25 Dunbavin||29 Welch|
|05 Long||31 Marjarson|
|13 Richardson||17 Winn|
|08 Barnett||20 Beardsley|
|10 Putterill||26 Harrison|
|16 Turner||27 Maamria|
As expected, the home team attacked from the start – although weren’t able to break down a resolute Boro defence. Despite a number of enterprising moves, there always seemed to be a Boro man on hand to clear.
The first half was very intermittent, with a number of injuries to both sides causing frequent breaks in play – and a total of 7 minutes additional time added on at the end of the half.
After the restart, the game followed the same pattern, with the home team desperately trying to break through the Boro lines – with the visitors continuing to frustrate them. Boro made some tentative attacks of their own, but were never going to chase the game or commit bodies forwards.
The turning point in the match came in the 69th minute when a spectacular collapse of discipline led to two successive dismissals for the home side – Joe Jacobson first seeing red for a professional foul on Lawrie Wilson. In the protests that followed, Sean McConville pushed Stacy Long in the face – and himself saw a straight red.
Reduced to 9 players against a Boro side that were sitting on a 2 goal lead – and didn’t look like conceding – was the end of the Stanley play-off hopes.The remainder of the game was largely uneventful – as Accrington were unable to breakdown the Boro defence – and there was very few attempts from the visitors to add to their advantage.
However, in a final coup de grace, Lawrie Wilson put a pass through to substitute Chris Beardsley, who controlled the ball in the penalty area, turned inside his defender and shot low past the keeper to give Boro a 0-1 victory and ensure the teams place in the League 2 play-off final at Old Trafford – all in the clubs first ever season in the Football League.