Stevenage made their Carling Cup debut on Monday evening as they were removed from the competition by a good Portsmouth side. The hosts gave a good account of themselves with a goal from Darren Murphy putting them level.
But it was a goal apiece from the old and the new that ensured Stevenage would take no further part in the cup. Nadir Ciftci and Michael Brown the executioners in a game that some Pompey fans, feared may not even have taken place after the club survived a winding up order a few days prior.
It was an electric evening in front of the Sky cameras even before the game kicked off with both sets of fans in fine voice, and the East Terrace pumping out their latest tune of choice "Dale Chavese" that so impressed Graham Westley on Saturday.
Despite the speculation Portsmouth fielded a side that contained eight players who were on the books last year as they slid down into the Football league with only Mathew Ritchie, Joel Ward and Ciftci not senior pros.
It took just eight minutes for one of those youngsters to take his chance. David Nugent was put through on goal with just Chris Day to beat, but the Stevenage goalkeeper turned the ball around the post well.
The joy was short lived as the corner was whipped into the box for Ciftci to rise the highest and nod the ball home. It was in stark contrast to Saturday where Boro took the lead early doors. Unlike the weekend though, Stevenage were unable to bounce back quickly but did get themselves into the game in terms of possession and pressure.
Stevenage began to make inroads and was putting the Pompey defence under pressure. With their first real attempt of note, Boro levelled the game just shy of the twenty minute mark. It may have been a tad fortunate, but when Murphy struck the ball low and hard outside of the box, there was always a chance.
And so it proved as the ball travelled through the melee of players and proceeded on its way towards goal, leaving Jamie Ashdown unsighted and last season reserve goalkeeper could only make a late dive for it as it squeezed inside the near post.
Stevenage continued to play good football and carved out another good opportunity, this time for Joel Byrom, who struck a decent effort from distance which flew just wide of the goal.
The Boro's defence seemed to be nullifying any threat the Pompey attack posed, and on the one occasion they broke free with Jon Utaka down the left, his perfect cross for Ciftci was met by the striker, only to shoot over the bar from close range.
Portsmouth did begin to settle back into the game, as they gained more possession and soon enough they had regained the lead. A cross from the right wing by Ward was met by midfielder Brown who sent the ball goalwards and past Day.
Stevenage went on to search once more for an equaliser and could so nearly have found it when Odubade was fouled in the middle of the park. Scott Laird sent in a good floating free kick that was met by the head of Charlie Griffin, only for it to loop just over the bar.
Both sides came out for the second half re-energised and ready to go as they fought for the ascendancy. The Boro brought on Stacy Long to replace the goal scorer Murphy, giving another creative outlet for the half.
Before long Stevenage had their first decent chance. With a superb build up the ball fell to Michael Bostwick who surged forward before unleashing a thunderbolt, which Ashdown saved smartly to his right.
The game was finely poised on the hour as the game ebbed and flowed from end to end with neither side giving way at the back. With no clear cut chances to speak of, it appeared as though any further goals would come down to a superb piece of individual brilliance or a gross mistake.
Westley had another throw of the dice as he replaced the tricky forward Odubade, with Lee Boylan to add another decent striker into the mix. It was Griffin who had the next effort though, as he unleashed a strike goalwards that Ashdown had to parry downwards in order to collect.
Long was next to test the young goalie, with a good strike that had Ashdown sprawling to his right to turn wide for a corner. Stevenage were fighting for a goal and pushed forward at every opportunity.
Meanwhile Ciftci wanted to add to his tally, but was never going to do so with his header straight into the arms of Day. Immediately, the Boro broke down the left with substitute Peter Winn who sent in a dangerous cross that just eluded the front men.
There was a sense of urgency and purpose to their play, while Portsmouth naturally attempted to keep hold of the ball, whilst repelling the forward advances of the men in white and red.
On a rare break forward, Nugent got away from Roberts and with only Day to beat, the big 'keeper threw himself at the striker's feet to block the ball and stop what would have been a certain match winner.
Stevenage were again trying to pull off a late show, with the ball just not falling at the right time for them. In fairness to the Pompey defence they grew in stature and worked hard to deny Stevenage what would have been a well-deserved draw.
As it was, the coastal club advanced into the second round while Stevenage were left with their heads held high, and the knowledge that they had given it their all against a side that was 72 places above them just a few months ago.
Both sets of fans applauded each other as they made their ways out of the Stadium, some from both sets of fans showing a mutual respect perhaps, with the Stevenage fans in full voice after the final whistle again, and the sound of a bell ringing as Pompey left. For Boro, the bell had already tolled.
Stevenage (4-3-3) C Day - R Henry, M Bostwick, M Roberts, S Laird - R Sinclair (Sub: P Winn, 76), D Murphy (Sub: S Long, 46), J Byrom - C Beardsley, C Griffin, Y Odubade (Sub: L Boylan, 70). Substitutes Not Used: A Bayes, L Foster, L Wilson, P Vincenti.