Stevenage were held to a goalless draw at Fratton Park in a competitively fought fixture against Portsmouth.
It was Boro’s first goalless draw since hosting Sheffield United in the Play off Semi Final in 2012 but it was a point that mathematically guaranteed League One football next season.
Dani Lopez has the best Boro chance in the first half but his shot was saved by Simon Eastwood and in a game of high drama but few goal scoring chances Marcus Haber might have won it with a late header that crashed off the upright.
Stevenage may well point to the referee’s decision not to send off Yassin Moutaouakil for an apparent head butt on Anthony Grant but in truth a draw was the fair result
Graham Westley stuck with the same defence that had earned the victory over Hartlepool on East Monday, goal scorer Max Ehmer continuing at left back with Darius Charles injured and Lee Hills on the bench. Robin Shroot went off in that game injured and the extent of his problem is still unclear, so Filipe Morais was rewarded for a fine substitute’s appearance with a start –he of course, scored twice against Pompey in the reverse fixture. Dani Lopez partnered Morais up top with Canada international Haber named amongst the substitutes.
Stevenage showed an attacking intent from the off, Morais raced forward from the start and Akins putting in a good cross inside the first minute. The best efforts in the opening exchanges went the way of the away side; Morais and Lopez saw shots deflected, the latter won a corner, and Dunne saw a low shot blocked in the box.
As if boxing, the home side responded with a great opportunity that really should have been converted. Jed Wallace progressed well down the right wing and sent a low cross in towards David Connolly, the experienced forward cleverly let the ball between his legs and it ran through to Liam Walker but his shot from 10 yards was comfortably wide.
When in the final third, Stevenage were dangerous. They hassled the Portsmouth back line if possession was lost and stayed on their toes. They won the second balls and put it back into the danger area – in fact, an opener may have been created for either N’Gala or Roberts from two hard working regains around the opposition area but both saw efforts blocked.
Just after the half hour mark – and with Stevenage fans in fantastic voice might I add – Morais had the ball in the back of the net. He latched onto a Freeman through ball and slotted it home but the offside flag was up; he looked just offside.
The score remained goalless at the break, and after the interval the game remained just as competitive. Just less than twenty minutes into the second period Haber came on for Lopez who had found it difficult by himself; his best chance came after a brilliant through ball from Morais but the Spanish striker left his boot behind when striking it towards goal and it lacked venom.
Despite a lack of action in front of goal, it was actually a decent game on show. Both sides were slugging it out for the guilt-edge chance and Boro almost had it first. A quick switch of ply gave Freeman the space he likes on the wing, he ran well and crossed to the front post, Morais rose and flicked his header across goal but it flew just wide of the far post.
A moment of controversy, and perhaps confusion came late on. Grant tackled Ertl, a free kick was given, the two tangled on the foot but got up only for Yassin Moutaouakil to steam over and square up to the Boro midfielder. The right back made a definite and obvious head movement towards Grant who reeled back, only for both teams to run over – handbags ensued. When the sides were pulled apart Moutaouakil went into the book, as did Grant!
With the last touch of the game Haber could have won it, Freeman picked him out with a good cross after a brilliant dribble and the second half substitute met it well with his head – the ‘keeper was beaten but it smashed the cross bar and the full time whistle came immediately after.
Stevenage: Arnold; Gray, Roberts, N’Gala, Ehmer; Akins, Dunne, Grant (Mahon 86), Freeman; Morais (Comminges 89), Lopez (Haber 63)
Unused Subs: Day, Hills, Deacon, Smith
Att: 12,036 (531 away)