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18:48 29th April 2012

Sheffield United 2 Stevenage FC 2

Even before a ball had been kicked the tension was tangible with the permutations fluctuating as results around the country filtered through to Bramell Lane. When the dust has settled and a tally taken there had been no assistance for Boro, with both Carlisle United and Notts County gaining valuable three-point hauls leaving Stevenage one point adrift in seventh spot.

If it was tense before kick of it was tumultuous once the action commenced. In recent years Stevenage have graced some prestigious venues, with crowds fare exceeding the 30,043 in attendance on Saturday, but nothing would have prepared them for the waves of noise that cascaded from the packed stands.

Initially the frenetic atmosphere buoyed the home side and Boro suffered some anxious moments in the opening exchanges with several balls flashing dangerously across the six-yard box. But as the atmosphere settled so did Stevenage and the nerves shifted to Sheffield withy every misplaced pass or error of judgement drawing derision from the support.

Midway through the half Boro carved out a real opening when the tricky feet of Luke Freeman sliced the Blades midfield apart before sending Robin Shroot clear, but the defence did enough to drive him wide and force the shot into the side netting. Moments later it was Freeman himself with a shot from just outside the area the deflected inches with Steve Simonsen scrambling across his goal.

When the breakthrough came for Boro it was counter attacking at its best. Shroot disposed Lee Williamson just outside the Boro area, sprinted forward and fed Patrick Agyemang on the right. The forward bustled down the right flank and fed a low ball across the area that Joel Byrom got to ahead Neill Collins to glance the ball into the far corner.

The fans had barely regained their seats for the start of the second period before the advantage was doubled. Scott Laird picked the ball up wide on the left, surged into the area and his low shot took a deflection that left Simonsen stranded.

It all seemed to be going to plan for Boro after that. The home side had the lion's share of possession but it was Boro who looked more dangerous on the break. But the growing sense of security was shattered in seconds on 63 minutes but two second-half substitutes. Ryan Flynn sent in a speculative cross from the left and Richard Cresswell rose highest to head past Chris Day.

As ever Boro responded strongly and should have restored their two-goal advantage moments later and once again Freeman was at the heart of the move. The midfielder collected the ball in his own half and danced his way through several home defenders into the area. His delightfully weighted pass appeared to have created the perfect shooting opportunity for Shroot, but he opted to bring the ball inside and the chance was smothered.

As time ticked on the Blades attacked in waves, laying siege to the Boro goal. Only last ditch blocks from first Jon Ashton and then captain Mark Roberts maintained Boro's slender lead, but an equaliser appeared to be only a matter of time. In an attempt to stem the onslaught Gary Smith sent on first John Mousinho and then Chris Beardsley to replace Shroot and Agyemang, but there was no dampening Sheffield's attacking momentum.

As the time ebbed away Boro's defensive line dropped ever deeper, inviting the home side on. Kevin McDonald took advantage of the acres of space to race forward a fire a stinging drive that flashed inches wide of Day's right-hand post. Brave as Boro's resilience was it could not last and the inevitable equaliser eventually came and it was another substitute at the heart of the action, this time James Beattie. The former England international rose above the Boro rearguard to head back across goal for Matt Lowton to fire home from close range. Beattie himself almost secured an unlikely victory for United moments later but his low shot was superbly saved by the legs of Day.

So on an early evening of high drama it was a share of the spoils, a result that pleased Boro more than the home side, putting them back into the play-off positions and leaving their destiny in their own hands for what promises to be a nerve-wracking final weekend of the regular season.

    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.