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18:14 20th June 2014

A late equaliser deep into stoppage time denied Stevenage all three points at Tranmere this afternoon in an eventual 2-2 draw.

An own goal and a goal on his second Boro debut for new loan signing Lee Barnard had given the hosts a 2-0 lead just past the hour. However Steve Jennings pulled one back immediately with a rocket from outside the box and after heavy pressure from Rovers, Michael Ihiekwe stole a point with virtually the last kick of the game.

Team news saw Graham Westley hand a debut to new loan signing Lee Barnard who partnered Chris Beardsley up front. There was also a welcome return to the bench to Simon Walton after several weeks out with a hamstring injury.

Despite a poor start to the season Tranmere have rallied in recent matches and were first to register a shot in this game. After Charlie Adams lost possession on the edge of the box, Danny Johnson tried to curl a 25 yarder over Day but it cleared the bar.

After dealing with early pressure from Rovers, Boro pushed forward and were rewarded with the opening goal on 13 minutes. Beardsley won the visitors a free-kick and when the ball found Adams on the left, his fierce cross was somehow turned into his own net by defender Michael Ihiekwe. It was the second own goal from an Adams cross in two games, after the late winner against Burton last weekend.

Kayode Odejayi was the obvious physical threat up top for Rovers but Stevenage have physicality of their own in abundance at the back and were able to cope with the big front man for much of the half, as the visitors looked comfortable.

On 21 minutes Boro were handed a free-kick on the edge of the area when Rovers skipper Marcus Holness went through Beardsley. The ball was played down the side of the wall to Adams whose fierce cross was diverted onto the post by a defender in a moment of luck for the hosts.

At the other end the new front pairing of Beardsley and Barnard were looking bright, so it came as a big blow when the former went down injured and had to be replaced by Simon Walton. He slotted into midfield with Charlie Lee pushing further forward.

Boro were looking comfortable but that forced substitution seemed to affect their attacking game for the rest of the half as Tranmere pushed forward. Johnson fired a free-kick over and a couple of dangerous crosses into the box evaded any Rovers players as Boro took their slender lead into the half time break.

The visitors came out of the blocks the quickest in the second half with Lee seeing a volley blocked behind for a corner. However from that set play Rovers countered and when Laird met Power’s cross from the right, it needed a save from Day to maintain the 1-0 advantage. It was to set the tone for much of the rest of the game as a rejuvenated Tranmere pushed men forward at will and Boro had to deal with wave after wave of Rovers attack.

Stevenage were finding it hard to get out of their own half, let alone get near the opposition penalty area so it came as a surprise to the home faithful when the visitors doubled their advantage just past the hour. The ball started with Chris Day but when Ihiekwe misjudged his header, there was predator Lee Barnard to tuck home left-footed. 2-0.

They say teams are at their most vulnerable when they score and that proved to be the case here as Steve Jennings fired home a thunderbolt of a shot to reduce the deficit back to one within a minute of the restart. 

Buoyed by that goal, Rovers pushed forward and the 5,456-strong crowd saw Tranmere pour forward time and time again in the remaining 25 minutes. To their credit Boro were clearing everything with Wells and Charles looked dominant at the back, helped by some wayward shooting from the likes of Armand Gnanduillet, who twice blazed over.

Much like the draw at Plymouth it looked to be going Boro’s way until a late, late equaliser deep into six minutes of injury time provided heartbreak for the visitors. Atoning for his earlier own goal it was Michael Ikiekwe firing home inside the box for Tranmere to send Prenton Park wild and Stevenage home with just a point.

Tranmere: Fon Williams, Holmes (Richards 70), Ihiekwe, Holness, Donacien, Power, Laird, Jennings, Johnson, Odejayi (Donnelly 70), Gnanduillet

Subs not used: Baggie, Kirby, Ramsbottom, Thompson

Stevenage: Day, Henry, Ashton (Deacon 75), Wells, Charles, Whelpdale, Lee, McAllister, Adams (Okimo 62), Barnard, Beardsley (Walton 26)

Subs not used: Beasant, Pett, Jebb, Clarke

Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge

Attendance: 5,456 (73 away)


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