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08:26 5th June 2012

Sheffield Utd vs Stevenage

Stevenage were narrowly beaten in the League One Play Off Semi Final as a late Chris Porter goal consigned them to defeat. 

In 180 minutes of football against Sheffield United there was merely one goal between the sides and despite missing out on a third successive promotion the progress that the club has made on and off the pitch in recent years is evident. 

Boro fans may be disappointed with the lack of chances created in the two-legged affair but a season that included an FA Cup Sixth Round appearance as well as a play off push will be seen as a success when the history books are again rewritten. Boro reverted to the same style and personnel that had yielded two goals at Bramall Lane just 16 days ago, with one change in the form of Robin Shroot for Craig Reid. It meant the midfielder would play behind Patrick Agyemang up front. 

The Blades had no option but to play with a similar style, the loss of Ched Evans and the suspension to James Beattie were felt even further with Richard Cresswell missing the tie through illness. Their starting XI was unchanged from the game that took place just 3 days previous. 

The attacking intent that was perhaps missing from the first leg was certainly not lacking in this tie, with Agyemang forcing a corner inside sixty seconds. He strode forward with Shroot in possession but the midfielder's pass to him took all of the momentum out of the equation and the best thing the on-loan forward could do was force a set piece. Into the box it went and after causing a little bit of panic it was cleared. 

United would have staked the claim for the best chance in the opening ten minutes though as a ball into the box was headed on into the path of Chris Porter; from point blank range he should have found the back of the net but Day had other ideas and his outstretched palms tipped it wide. In truth it was a real let off for Smith's side, who were being stretched by United and having to concentrate in defence.

As the first half progressed it was the home side who had a grip on things, their possession stats must have been high with 25 minutes on the clock and again Stevenage's final ball was lacking. Deliveries into the box were failing to beat the first man on the rare occasions that an attack was created.

And it didn't get much better in the following 20 minutes, neither side could carve out a chance that would present an opener but for Stevenage there was a sense that much improvement would be needed to progress.

United brought on Nick Montgomery at the break, replacing Kevin McDonald. Just a minute into proceedings they had a glorious chance to take the lead but Ryan Flynn scuffed his shot in front of goal, despite it still looking goal bound Wilson managed to block it with his thigh and Byrom got it clear.

Boro's first change came 11 minutes into the half with Mousinho replacing Shroot, it followed two more huge chances for the Blades who first saw Williamson shoot wide of the bottom corner from inside the box and next had Flynn, who appeared to control the ball with his arm, smash a long range effort also wide of the mark.

Mousinho almost played a part instantly as his run pulled the midfield open unlike they had been all game. It allowed Freeman more space on his wing and he pulled the ball back to Laird before cutting into the box, the left back found the former Arsenal man and he jigged onto his right foot to create a glorious opportunity; unfortunately his eventual shot was tame and saved low by Steve Simonsen.

The second half trudged along with Williamson curling a free kick over the bar from range; it was a set piece won entirely by the fans who seemed to be influencing decisions more and more every minute. Still, Boro looked nervous in possession and with United pressing so high up the pitch there was very little time to make a decision when on the ball.

Boro burst into life with 11 minutes to go as Freeman brought the ball forward, despite being pulled back he managed to break free and get a shot away, it was blocked on the edge of the area but deflected into the path of Laird who sent a thunderbolt goal wards only for Simonsen to tip it over the bar. Moments later a Bostwick pile driver from a free kick was too central and once again well matched by the 'keeper.

But as it seemed that there may be a spell of Stevenage attacks the home side carved out chances of their own. They came forward with real menace and worked the ball well on the right wing, shot after shot was blocked en route to goal before Matt Hill rocketed wide just over the top corner of the goal.

With six minutes remaining the home side grabbed a vital lead with the first goal of the tie as Porter headed home from close range. It was a decent curled ball from the right back Lowton and the striker could hardly miss.

Boro's push for an unlikely equaliser began by replacing Byrom with Craig Reid, immediately a corner was won but it was dealt with well, as was the second ball into the box.

It wasn't to be though, and after three minutes of added time the season came to a close with a narrow defeat at Bramall Lane, a sign of how far the club has come in such a short space of time.

Stevenage (4-4-1-1) Day; Lascelles, Ashton, Roberts, Laird; Wilson, Byrom (Reid 85), Bostwick, Freeman; Shroot (Mousinho 56); Agyemang (Beardsley 63)
Unused Subs: Julian, Charles

Sheff Utd (4-4-1-1) Simonsen; Lowton, Collins, Maguire, Hill; Williamson, Doyle, McDonald (Montgomery 45), Flynn; Quinn; Porter
Unused Subs: Howard, Taylor, McAllister, O'Halloran

Att: 21,182 (902 Stevenage fans)

    Data provided by Press Association


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