Boro battled hard but fell to a 2-0 home defeat against MK Dons in the final league game of the 2012/13 season.
Graham Westley recalled David Gray, Darius Charles, Gavin Mahon and Marcus Haber for this game whilst Matt Ball was handed his home debut after appearing as a sub at Swindon last weekend.
The visitors were first to threaten goal after four minutes when Bamford found space but his weak shot was easily saved by Day. Boro were then dealt a blow when Bondz N’Gala went down injured and the big centre-back, who has played every minute since Graham Westley returned to the club, was replaced by Max Ehmer.
Matt Ball was having a bright start to the game in midfield and he started and nearly finished a neat move which could have put his side one up. McLoughlin, between the sticks for the Dons, denied the youngster a goal with Haber then flagged offside when following up.
The visitors went close with efforts from Luke Chadwick and Dean Bowditch but then took the lead on 33 minutes. A cross came in from the left and Patrick Bamford went up to direct his header away from a diving Chris Day and into the far corner.
Boro responded and Matt Ball had an opportunity to equalise when the ball came to him inside the MK Dons box. But he shot straight at the ‘keeper then when an effort either side of him would surely have meant 1-1.
Stevenage continued to press forward with Dunne, Haber and Freeman combining particularly well and Akins heading wide at the back post from a corner.
Bamford then provided the game’s most comical moment with the young striker sliced his free-kick from 30 yards in completely the wrong direction and out for a goal kick, much to the amusement of both sets of fans.
With half-time fast approaching Mark Roberts had two glorious chances to take Boro into the break level. Firstly another neat free-kick routine found the skipper at the back post but McLaughlin denied him. Just seconds later he again found himself in space but fired wide under pressure from the ‘keeper.
The start of the second half was scrappy with neither side able to keep possession for more than a few passes and no real efforts on goal. Westley responded by making his first change on 58 minutes with Joseph N’Guessan making his Stevenage debut in place of Lucas Akins. The youngster headed straight up top alongside Marcus Haber and was to put in an encouraging performance.
The hosts continued to look for an equaliser with Luke Freeman shooting over when N’Guessan’s cross from the right found the winger on the edge of the box. Matt Ball then went close with a left-foot shot at one end before Chris Day pulled off a great save to deny Dons a second after two corners in succession from the visitors.
However despite creating numerous chances Boro found themselves 2-0 down with 13 minutes remaining when Roberts was robbed in the box and sub Ryan Lowe skipped around a couple of players to fire home.
Boro pushed forward in the final 10 minutes and nearly grabbed a late consolation when N’Guessan blasted just wide from the edge of the box after being neatly set up by Marcus Haber.
However it just wasn’t to be on this occasion as MK Dons took all three points, leaving 18th placed Boro to reflect on a mixed season and look forward straightaway to an encouraging 2013/14 campaign.
Day, Gray, Roberts, N’Gala (Ehmer), Charles, Akins (N’Guessan), Dunne, Mahon, Ball (Tansey), Freeman, HaberBoro:
Subs not used: Arnold, Grant, Hoskins, Smith
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Otsemobor, Doumbe, Kay, Williams, Powell, Gleeson (Rasulo), Potter, Chadwick (Lowe), Bamford (Alli), Bowditch
Subs not used: Smith, McLeod, Galloway, Lines