Stevenage remain third in the table despite a disappointing defeat at the Lamex Stadium in a match where a Greg Tansey spectacular failed to inspire a victory.
The first half began in an exciting fashion and before the game’s early opener there could have been goals for either side. It was Preston that had it though; with former Wycombe Wanderers man Stuart Beavon hitting home from the edge of the area, but before long the scores were level as Greg Tansey hit another sublime goal at the Lamex Stadium.
The home side were on top and created chances to take the lead but before the break it was Graham Westley’s side that got their second. Jeffrey Monakana had the assists after strolling into the box and pulling the ball back to Jack King who saw his shot nestle into the back of the net.
After the break the Lilywhites pushed on and Monakana turned scorer with an effort from outside the area that found the bottom corner. Nicky Wroe got his sides fourth, and his eighth goal of the season, with another placed shot.
Boro were trying to find a way back into the game but it was a bad afternoon for the home faithful.
Gary Smith reverted to his favoured formation after deploying Lucas Akins in attack against Yeovil Town in the game previous. Marcus Haber returned as the lone striker with Patrick Agyemang taking his place amongst the substitutes. The return of the former regime only yielded one ex-player in the starting XI, as left-back Scott Laird began the game for the Lilywhites.
The home supporters were as loud as they’d been all season as the game began and they enjoyed a jibe at Laird in the opening minute when he slipped on the turf. Before long he was celebrating though, as his side took the lead. Boro’s defending was below par and the goal came from nowhere – they had chances to get the ball clear but instead it bobbled around the edge of the box dangerously. Eventually Beavon was given the time to shoot and it beat Steve Arnold with its power. In truth, it could have been two just a minute later after some more poor work at the back, again the Stevenage side were failing to clear their lines but luckily the eventual shot from Lee Holmes was well wide.
Smith’s side showed a strong desire to get back into the game early, and in a reverse of the midweek game against the Glovers it was they who got the equaliser after an early set back. A corner was well won by Filipe Morais and it was taken short to James Dunne who rushed up the left wing. He squared the ball to Tansey on the edge of the box who done what he does best – the first touch set up the shooting chance and he curled it exquisitely into the far top corner.
The recovery continued into the next 20 minutes and the football on show was up there with the best at home so far during this campaign. It just needed to be turned into a goal. Haber came close after a neat one-two with Akins, but the Canadian’s final touch was a little heavy and gave Simonsen the chance to pounce. Dunne could also have forced a save from the ‘keeper, but rather than take a shot he laid the ball off to Tansey who wasn’t on the same wavelength and possession was lost.
Against the run of play, and with 32 minutes on the clock, the away side had their lead back – and again it’ll be a goal that the defence won’t want to watch back. There were some strange decisions in the build-up, but eventually Monakana has possession on the left wing, he waltzed past Tansey with ease and into the box before pulling the ball back to King. He controlled the ball before shooting towards goal, Roberts failed to make the block and it nestled into the back of the net.
It remained that way beyond the half time break, and the fifteen minutes in between each half seemed to take the sting and atmosphere out of what was a decent first 45 minutes on display. After the teams re-emerged the stadium had an eerie quiet about it, and it reflected in a flat performance With the hour mark approaching Boro conceded a third and it was Monakana who had his name on the sheet. The 18 year old had the ball on the edge of the Stevenage box and hit a tame effort towards the bottom corner, but it proved that placement can sometimes be more important than power as it beat Arnold and trickled in.
Any chances of an unlikely comeback were extinguished with 18 minutes to go as Preston grabbed their fourth of the afternoon. In-form midfielder Wroe was again given space around the edge of the penalty box, and when you have time you can pick your spot. He slotted the ball into the bottom corner beyond Arnold’s reach.
Luke Freeman and Robin Shroot had been introduced but they did little to set fire to the Boro attack on a difficult afternoon. As the clocked ticked down it was apparent that there wouldn’t be any points added to the Stevenage total after this one. Smith’s side remain third in the league, but will hope for a better show away to Sheffield United next Saturday.
Stevenage (4-2-3-1) Arnold; Gray, N’Gala, Roberts, Charles; Dunne, Grant; Akins, Tansey (Agyemang 60), Morais (Freeman 66); Haber (Shroot 78)
Unused Subs: Day, Hills, Rogers, Risser
Att: 3740 (556 Away)