On Easter Monday it was the third coming of Graham Westley that was being celebrated at the Lamex stadium, as a single Max Ehmer strike secured all three points.
A goalless first half was more exciting than the score line suggested; Stevenage began the brighter and pressed their opposition well but soon Hartlepool United started to create chances – it was an even affair.
After the break Stevenage pushed on and the pivotal moment came on 76 minutes as on-loan QPR midfielder, playing at left back for the game, fired what proved to be the winner with a stinging shot into the bottom corner.
Westley’s name stood at the top of the team sheet for the first time, well, the first time since the last first time, and the first time before that! Entering his third spell as boss he named an attacking line-up, with a victory over the bottom-placed side at the forefront of everyone’s mind. A win would all but secure League One status for next season, and with all three of the club’s top scorers for the season – Robin Shroot, Lucas Akins and Marcus Haber - in the starting XI goals would be top of the agenda.
It didn’t come as easily as that though. Stevenage were pressing the game well early on and winning some big 50/50 challenges in the middle of the park, Shroot was a stand out performer for getting stuck in but with 20 minutes on the clock he came off second best and had to be stretchered from the field, replaced by Anthony Grant.
If there were any thoughts that the Pools were a relegated side already then those were eradicated by some forays into the Boro penalty area that caused a stir. Charlie Wyke had the best chance of the first half when a lucky bounce put him in front of Steve Arnold but an instinctive strike was saved by the legs of the ‘keeper.
Darren Holden also had fortune to thank for presenting a chance; he tried to take on David Gray and a bounce off two Stevenage players gave the ball back to him on the edge of the area. He tried to curl an effort across goal into the top corner, but it was high and wide of the mark.
At the other end Luke Freeman looked lively, but his dribbling ability was let down by little in the penalty area latching onto crosses. Dani Lopez also sent a brilliant ball in after beating Neil Austin, but Scott Flinders comfortably saved Haber’s header.
Luke James came close in the second period but his low shot across goal was inches wide of nestling into the back of the net. In attack, Haber thought he’d won a penalty after being wrestled to the ground at the back post, but strangely the referee gave it against the Canada international.
With 14 minutes to go Boro finally took the lead, the goal coming as the away side began to press for a goal of their own. Morais, on for Lopez after an hour, picked up the ball from Freeman and shot from the edge, it deflected off Sam Collins and fell to Ehmer at the back post and he magnificently fired it into the bottom corner.
After waiting so long for one it was very nearly two just a minute later, the ‘keeper made a blinding save but at the same time Freeman was guilty of not picking his spot well. Dunne was the architect, a brilliant piece of skill allowing him space in the area, he pulled it back to the former Arsenal man but his shot from 8 yards hit the Flinders and bounced away.
To their credit, United pushed on Stevenage in search of an equaliser and caused some nervy moments for the defence to deal with late on. Three minutes were added on but Boro held firm and had their victory.
Day, Hoskins, Smith, JeffreyUnused Subs:
Arnold; Gray, Roberts, N’Gala, Ehmer; Akins (Deacon 79), Shroot (Grant 21), Dunne, Freeman; Haber, Lopez (Morais 59) Stevenage:
2903 (116 away)Att: