Stevenage bounced back from defeat last weekend to record three points with a resolute performance at MK Dons.
Boro led at the break for the first time in five games and Lucas Akins was the man to find the back of the net, making a curled shot into the top corner look easy with the swing of a leg. The home side had chances of their own, but Steve Arnold was equal to both a long range strike and point blank header.
The second half was an onslaught on Arnold’s goal, MK won corner after corner but on the few occasions that they managed to get a decent shot away the Boro shot stopper was more than equal to it.
There were chances for either side to get the games second goal, Marcus Haber came close for Stevenage but his header was cleared off the line, and in the end it was a single goal victory for the away side.
Stevenage boss Gary Smith was without Anthony Grant after his sending off against Colchester United last weekend, so Luke Freeman came in. It meant that Greg Tansey would drop back to the more defensive two in the midfield with James Dunne, whilst goal scorer Akins and winger Filipe Morais retained their places. Marcus Haber was again up top by himself and with Miguel Comminges missing through injury it was the same back four and ‘keeper that began the previous game. One notable inclusion was Andy Iro who took his place among the substitutes; the central defender hasn’t played a game since leaving Toronto FC in January upon completion of the MLS season.
A trip to Milton Keynes could be seen as both the best and worst way to follow up a first defeat of the season. Victory for Boro would expel any worries after the game at the Weston Homes Community Stadium; however defeat would hurt even more against a side that Smith suggested would rival Boro for promotion come the end of the season.
In an even opening twenty minutes both sides created chances but it was the Dons that came the closest as Luke Chadwick hit a long range effort that forced a brilliant save from Arnold as it headed towards the top corner.
However, six minutes later it was the opposite goals top corner that was attacked – and this time the ‘keeper between the sticks could do nothing about it. Boro took the lead through a chance that stemmed from captain Mark Roberts, his challenge began the play and moments later his pass found Akins on the left wing. The former Tranmere Rovers man cut into the box onto his left foot before curling a delightful effort into the far top corner.
The home side started much brighter in the second half and created a hatful of early chances to find an equaliser. Williams curled a corner into the back post but the head that met it couldn’t get enough power to really test Arnold and with their next chance Darren Potter mishit a shot from the edge of the box which trickled wide.
Still their possession continued, Chadwick was seeing a lot of the ball and corner after corner was being won. Potter would have liked to have controlled his front post header better on 57 minutes and Gleeson was just in front of a decent square ball as Karl Robinson warmed his subs up. Adam Chicksen, Ryan Lowe and Charlie MacDonald came on for the home side, with Jon Otsemobor, Alan Smith and O’Shea making way.
When on the ball Boro looked like a side that were trying to take the sting out of the game, however MK weren’t letting that happen easily. Oliver Risser came on for Freeman, with the on-loan Swindon Town man slotting into the more defensive section of the midfield giving Tansey the freedom to move higher up the pitch.
As the game approached the final stages Stevenage finally began to get on the ball and dictate the tempo, Risser sent a great ball out to Gray on the right hand side but his ball in failed to find Haber in the box. Boro then gave the ball away cheaply in midfield and were forced to defend, Scott Allan had space on the edge and drilled a thunderbolt towards goal but Arnold’s fingertips brushed it wide. Robbie Rogers came on for the away side as Morais ended his shift.
In the dying embers Smith’s side finally won a corner of their own after some great work from Haber in attack; minimal bodies were sent forward but the Canadian striker managed to make sure that his head was the one to meet it and he got enough power on it to beat the ‘keeper only for Williams to block it on the line and get it clear.
Three minutes were added on but Boro held firm to add three points to the board and remain second in the table.
Stevenage (4-2-3-1) Arnold; Charles, Roberts, N’Gala, Gray; Dunne, Tansey; Akins, Morais (Rogers 81), Freeman (Risser 71); Haber
Unused Subs: Day, Ball, Iro, Lopez, Shroot
MK Dons (4-2-3-1) Martin; Lewington, Doumbe, Williams, Otsemobor (Chicksen 62); Gleeson, Potter; O’Shea (MacDonald 62), Allan, Chadwick; Smith (Lowe 62)
Unused Subs: McLoughlin, Kay
Att: 9,190 (1019 away)