Stevenage picked up a point in an eventful 2-2 draw at Port Vale this afternoon.
Two first half goals from Jordan Burrow had turned the game on its head after Jennison Myrie-Williams had given the Valiants a 30th minute lead from the spot. Michael Doughty saw red with 20 minutes remaining for a second bookable offence but Boro looked to hold out for a win, until a late Tom Pope header ensured the points were shared.
Stevenage manager Graham Westley made four changes to his starting XI with Roarie Deacon, Bruno Andrade, Greg Tansey and Jordan Burrow all coming in. Simon Heslop and Filipe Morais were suspended whilst Peter Hartley and Lucas Akins missed out with knocks. Dean Parrett dropped to the bench and was joined by James Dunne who returned after injury.
The hosts controlled the opening stages in this one, causing brief moments of panic in the Stevenage box from a couple of early corners but Boro were able to clear.
Jennison Myrie-Williams seemed keen to impress against his former employers and one run down the left on 8 minutes forced a Port Vale corner from which Tom Pope crashed a header against the bar.
After absorbing the early pressure Stevenage started to create chances of their own. Twenty minutes in and Zoko fired just wide after a great run and cross from Freeman down the left. He was at it again moments later with a similar effort before Doughty saw a shot from distance fly straight at Sam Johnson.
Vale continued to pressurise with Myrie-Williams looking particularly dangerous down the left-flank. He forced a corner from Day which Boro were able to clear, with Chorley looking particularly impressive in his second start in a week.
The first goal of the game came on the half hour and in controversial circumstances. Tomlin evaded Doughty on the edge of the box and advanced into the area, twisting and turning before going down under a challenge.
The ref pointed to the spot, Myrie-Williams converted and was then promptly cautioned for removing his shirt in the celebration.
But rather than let their heads drop, Boro fought back and were level within minutes. Freeman found Zoko in space and the Ivorian took the ball to the byline before firing in a cross which was bundled home by Jordan Burrow for his first league goal for the club.
Two minutes later and Boro turned the game on its head with a second and another from Burrow.
Deacon and Zoko worked hard to dribble the ball into the area and when the ball looked to fall for ‘keeper Johnson there was Burrow to nip in front and bury the ball in the roof of the net.
Tom Pope saw a cushioned volley go wide from a Yates cross as the break approached, with the fourth official indicating four minutes of added time.
And what a four minutes it was. First Myrie-Williams twisted and turned in the box before seeing Day save his close-range effort. Then up the other end Zoko opted to shoot from a tight angle rather than feed the furious Burrow.
Port Vale then had Johnson to thank for keeping Boro’s advantage to one at half time as he got down low to superbly tip behind a Zoko header from an Andrade cross.
Stevenage started the second half where they finished the first, threatening the Vale goal. Two minutes in, Zoko set up Andrade who opted against a pass to the unmarked Burrow and instead curled an effort millimetres over the corner of post and bar.
Luke Freeman enjoyed himself down the left flank throughout the game and was causing the Port Vale defenders all kinds of problem. On 52 minutes he led a break from the edge of the Boro area right up the other end before playing in Zoko, whose shot was blocked for a corner.
From the resulting set-piece Michael Doughty was cautioned for taking too long to deliver the ball – a moment which would come back to haunt the midfielder later in the half.
Myrie-Williams had two great chances to equalise around the hour mark but failed to make either count. First he could only head over whilst Day was scrambling back to his goal after making an initial save, before then hitting the side-netting with another chance when it looked easier to score.
This end-to-end game continued with two chances for Boro in quick succession. After Zoko had done superbly to win a corner, Doughty met Tansey’s set piece with a deft header which flew just past the far post.
Freeman was then at it again, bamboozling the Vale defence as he dribbled from the touchline right into the six yard box before clattering into Johnson.
Momentum swung in Vale’s favour with 20 minutes remaining when Doughty was given a second yellow for a rash challenge in the middle of the park. Boro were down to 10 men and had their backs to the wall with James Dunne soon caming on for Andrade as Westley opted for midfield reinforcements.
With a quarter of an hour to go Boro were handed a free-kick on the edge of the area as Freeman was again bundled over. Luke Jones met Tansey’s delivery but could only head straight at Johnson.
The closing ten minutes saw wave after wave of Port Vale attack thwarted by stubborn Boro defending. Day was called into action on a couple of occasions but resistance was finally broken as Tom Pope buried a late header into the back of the net.
Even after the equaliser there were chances for both sides. Day went down low to save a low fierce effort whilst at the other end Jimmy Smith broke away and fed Dunne, who could only screw his shot wide.
Tansey and Freeman both saw shots blocked and Zoko could only fire a low effort straight at Johnson as Boro went for it during the five minutes of injury time. But the referee finally called time on an exhilarating game in which Stevenage will be disappointed to get just the single point.
Port Vale: Johnson, Yates, Robertson, Duffy, Dickinson, Birchall (Taylor 61), Lines, Griffith (Jones 61), Myrie-Williams, Pope, Tomlin (Hughes 80)
Subs not used: Boot, Chilvers, Dodds, Williamson
Stevenage: Day, Smith, Ashton (Jones 63), Chorley, Deacon, Andrade (Dunne 74), Tansey, Doughty, Freeman, Zoko, Burrow (Gray 80)
Subs not used: Arnold, Wedgbury, Parrett, Tounkara
Referee: G Eltringham
Attendance: 4,967 (91 away)