Stevenage picked up their second point in eight days with a goalless draw at home to Sheffield United this afternoon.
Whilst the Blades rattled the woodwork twice, goal-scoring chances were at a premium in this one with neither ‘keeper really forced into much work – Zoko and Burrow coming the closest for Boro.
Stevenage manager Graham Westley made three changes to his starting XI with Filipe Morais, Simon Heslop and Dean Parrett coming in for Roarie Deacon, Michael Doughty (both suspended) and Bruno Andrade who dropped to the bench. He was joined by the returning Marcus Haber whilst Jon Ashton was fit to play after going off injured at Port Vale.
The opening 10 minutes saw both teams create chances. Chris Day parried an Aidan White cross-cum-shot against his far post in the first real opportunity with Ashton then heading a Tansey free-kick just over on 5 minutes.
In an encouraging start for the visitors a Freeman slip two minutes later let in Shaun Miller but his left-footed effort was deflected behind for a corner. Tony McMahon then saw his effort from a short free-kick fly way over the bar.
Boro responded and good closing down by Heslop saw him win possession and set Zoko free. The striker held the ball up and laid it off to Morais who fired wide. The winger was booked moments later for a sliding challenge out wide but Boro were able to clear the resulting set-piece.
23 minutes in and Graham Westley made a tactical sub, replacing the cautioned Morais with Luke Jones. He dropped into a back three alongside Chorley and Ashton with Smith and Freeman as wing-backs.
Just past the half hour Stevenage thought they might have had a penalty. A Tansey shot from range was deflected up in the box and when Burrow went up with ‘keeper George Long and fell in a heap the home faithful appealed for a spot-kick. Their calls were in vain though as the ref waved played on.
Jones prodded the ball behind as Miller threatened to burst past the home defence in a rare half-chance for the visitors whilst Stevenage saved their best chance of the half until two minutes before the break.
Good work in the right channel by Zoko saw him escape two defenders and fire in a low cross which Burrow connected with but fired just wide.
The visitors began the second half brightly and created all the early pressure. A superb control and shot by Jose Baxter – who scored twice against Boro on the opening day of the season for Oldham – flew just wide of Day’s far post within a minute of the restart.
The same player went even closer moments later, rattling the post with a left-footed effort with the rebound not quite falling for a man in yellow. Chris Porter then nodded over from a Blades corner.
James Dunne came on for Dean Parrett as GW opted for a change in midfield and it seemed to swing the momentum slightly in Boro’s favour. Tansey saw a free-kick bounce out and a dangerous Freeman cross, following excellent play by Burrow and Tansey, was cut out as the hosts pushed forward.
Dunne then saw a chipped effort drop just over Long’s bar as the Blades ‘keeper scurried back towards his own goal.
Although both teams enjoyed periods of possession, neither was really working either keeper, although it was Stevenage who continued to create the best of the attacking chances.
With 18 minutes remaining Zoko set up Tansey for a cross from the right which was parried by Long – Burrow’s header was cleared as it bounced towards goal in a rare moment of panic for the visiting ‘keeper.
Boro’s front two worked hard all game and when they combined to rob the Blades of possession out wide, the Ivorian’s initial shot was saved. The ball was recycled and crossed in but his powerful header flew wide.
The visitors pushed for a late winner in the closing moments but Boro’s defence stood firm to record a rare clean sheet and pick-up a useful point against an improving Sheffield United.
Stevenage: Day, Smith, Ashton, Chorley, Freeman, Tansey, Heslop, Parrett (Dunne 52), Morais (Jones 23), Zoko, Burrow (Andrade 84)
Subs not used: Arnold, Wedgbury, Tounkara, Gray, Haber
Sheffield United: Long, McMahon, Collins, Maguire, Hill, Miller, Doyle, McGinn, White (Murphy 75), Baxter, Porter
Subs not used: Howard, Flynn, Taylor, Coady, Brandy, Lappin
3,004 (664 away)Attendance:
Referee: David Phillips