Stevenage’s suffered their worst loss since promotion to the Football League at the hands of a rampant Swindon Town on a cold day at the Lamex.
Boro invited new fans to the ground for a Halloween Day but it was a horror first half on show. All trick and no treat as first half strikes from Raffaele De Vita and Matt Ritchie, and a header from Miles Storey, meant the home side went in three behind at the break. It could have been worse too for Stevenage, had Steve Arnold not matched a Richie penalty when The Robins led by two.
Things didn’t get much easier after the restart and with 30 minutes to go second half substitute Adam Rooney netted his side’s fourth of the game. The home side were still finding it difficult to produce anything near the standard that is now expected of them and the result was perhaps a reminder of how competitive the division is.
After picking up his fifth booking of the season against James Dunne missed the game, and despite being on loan from the Robins Oliver Risser came in alongside Anthony Grant in the two more defensive roles in the midfield. It meant that Greg Tansey would move forward into the middle of the three behind Marcus Haber, with Filipe Morais and Luke Freeman either side.
In an even opening quarter of an hour, the away side shaded possession and made Boro pay for poor defending in the area. The ball was crossed into the back post from the left and, as we’d seen on a few occasions already, it was headed back into the centre. Highly-rated winger De Vita was given too much space in the area and with his back to goal e controlled it with his chest and turned before volleying beyond a helpless Steve Arnold.
It was a cold, wet day at the Lamex and former Wycombe man Arnold was caught frozen on half an hour as Town doubled their advantage. The ball was curled into the box by Miller and Arnold punched it clear to Ritchie on the edge of the box, he struck a low shot through the crowd which left the ‘keeper blind, it somehow made its way through the box and his legs and Boro were in trouble. Trouble that could have been a lot worse just a minute later as the away side won a penalty; Grant fouled McCormack in the area and referee Darren Deadman had no choice but to point to the spot. Richie had the chance to get his second of the afternoon but Arnold guessed correctly with a low dive to his left to keep the deficit at just two.
Two it remained for a further two minutes, but the game’s third goal did little to pick up the spirits of Smith and his assistant Mark Newson on the touchline. Again the trouble came from the wing and the cross from the right was met first by Storey who scored his first senior goal with a header into the top right hand corner.
The manager introduced Lucas Akins at the break with Risser making way; a change that moved a few players was one that had been seen often this season. Tansey dropped alongside Grant, Akins moved to the right of the more attacking three and Morais moved into the centre – where he had impressed on Tuesday evening. It didn’t bring an upturn in fortunes early on in the second half though, and indeed Swindon went closest as Storey was again allowed to head in the box, forcing a great save from Arnold.
Di Canio brought Rooney on for Storey, only after the number 20 went close with a drilled effort towards the top corner, but his replacement made an instant impact by firing home a fourth. He picked the ball up with space and almost passed the ball into the bottom right hand corner to the delight of the travelling fans. Boro brought Patrick Agyemang on for Haber whilst Dani Lopez replaced Morais in a bid to try and produce something special.
A miracle comeback never looked on the cards, in truth at 4-0 I was still Swindon in the ascendancy and the Robins looked more like scoring. It was certainly a bad day at the office for Smith’s men but the improvements that had been seen in the side before the game would not be forgotten. The next task would be to bounce back from the defeat and it would certainly be something that Smith will insist begins against Rotherham in the FA Cup First Round next weekend.
Stevenage (4-2-3-1) Arnold; Charles, N’Gala, Roberts, Gray; Risser (Akins 46), Grant; Freeman, Tansey, Morais (Lopez 68); Haber (Agyemang 66)
Unused Subs: Day, Hills, Rogers, Shroot
Swindon Town (4-4-2) Foderingham; Devera, Ward, Flint, McCormack; De Vita, Ritchie (Roberts 54), Bostock, Miller; Benson (Ferry 78), Storey (Rooney 60)
Unused Subs: Bedwell, McEveley, Collins, Thompson
Att: 4518 (926 away)