Stevenage made it five games unbeaten in League One with a hard-fought victory over Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena.
The scores were level at the break; David McGoldrick’s eleventh minute opener was cancelled out by an instinctive effort from Robin Shroot ten minutes later.
Marcus Haber headed the winner after Darius Charles had flicked on a Luke Freeman corner with twenty minutes to go and it was enough to secure victory for Boro.
Gary Smith made two changes to the side that played in the last league outing eight days ago; Shroot was handed a start in place of Greg Tansey who dropped to the bench whilst Patrick Agyemang started as the lone striker in place of Robbie Rogers, who missed the game with a hamstring injury.
The home side dominated the early proceedings and took the lead eleven minutes in; in truth the deadlock could have been broken far earlier though. First Chris Day was forced into a point blank save from a Stephen Elliott header and just minutes later the Sky Blues had a goal disallowed for a blatant foul on the ‘keeper as he attempted to pick a cross out of the air. Before long the rear gard were breached though, and it was a great goal in front of the Sky cameras. Making his first start for the club McGoldrick picked the ball up on the edge of the Boro area, he turned nicely to beat James Dunne and curled a beautiful effort into the top corner.
Stevenage showed signs of settling in and with a first meaningful attack they found themselves an equaliser; that man Shroot netting his third goal of the season. Anthony Grant led from midfield and played the ball out to Luke Freeman who drove a powerful effort towards goal which could only be parried by Joe Murphy – Shroot pounced as he does so well and slammed it into the back of the net.
The gap between the two sides that was so large in the opening exchanges was decreasing with every passing minute, Coventry felt rightly aggrieved when a second goal was disallowed – replays proved that Elliott was in fact onside- and almost as though a higher power was evening things up, Boro missed out on a second. Agyemang shot from inside the box, it deflected off a defender and onto the post, only to bounce back into play, strike the ‘keeper on the back of the head and trickle out for a corner. Boro played out the end of the half with 10 men, what looked like a nasty cut to the head for Jon Ashton forced him off and at the break Bondz N’Gala replaced him; meanwhile goal scorer Shroot was replaced by Oliver Risser.
Half Time: Coventry City 1 – 1 Stevenage
There was little goal mouth action as the second half trudged along, Day was forced into another point blank save when a shot from Richard Wood deflected kindly towards the back post and a strong header forced the best out of the ‘keeper. Jordan Clarke saw a shot from range trickle wide of the mark whilst Murphy was relatively untroubled in the Coventry goal. The best Boro produced finished in a beautiful ball from Charles on the left which curled across the face of goal and somehow evaded any oncoming white shirts.
If the first Stevenage goal had come out of nowhere then the second did even more so, yet with twenty minutes to go Boro led. Charles found himself through on goal and an attempted chip found Murphy’s fingertips and went out for a corner. Freeman curled it to the front post and Charles flicked a header into the middle where Marcus Haber, a 63rd minute sub for Agyemang, powerfully headed an effort off the underside of the bar.
The away fans remained in full voice for what would be a nervous ten minutes of football, City won consecutive corners but couldn’t make Boro pay and the lead remained intact. With four minutes added on Stevenage gave an exhibition in keep-ball play, the possession stats for the added time would have been highly in favour of a Boro side that showed a real confidence on the ball. After what felt like an age the final whistle did come and Boro took the three points to remain unbeaten in the league.
Stevenage (4-2-3-1) Day – Gray, Ashton (N’Gala 45), Roberts, Charles – Dunne, Grant – Akins, Shroot Risser 45), Freeman – Agyemang (Haber 63)
Unused Subs: Arnold, Tansey, Comminges, Lopez
Att: 9458 (461 Away)