Hoskins and Haber fire Stevenage to victory...
Stevenage put in a strong home performance to get all three points against a tough Notts County side.
Sam Hoskins and Marcus Haber got the goals in a tense affair, which produced a first home victory since October and edged the Boro up the table.
A dream start came when Hoskins poked home after a deflected effort fell into his path with less than a minute on the clock and with less than a minute remaining Haber headed in his side’s second.
Gary Smith sent out a flexible side that would simply look like a 4-4-2 line-up, however from the off it was clearly a 3 pronged attack. Morais dropped deeper into the central three with Hoskins on the right of the attack, Steve Beleck in the middle and Lucas Akins on the left.
The manager has often spoken of his desire to see his side fly from the traps and a goal inside 40 seconds certainly ticked that box. Boro rushed forward and the ball came to Morais on the edge of the area, his effort was blocked well by Gary Liddle but fell to Hoskins and his low placed shot nestled into the bottom corner beautifully. Minutes later County thought they had an equaliser, but the linesman ruled out Jeff Hughes’ effort with an offside flag.
The game settled and County began to feel their way back into it, Jamal Campbell-Ryce is always one of their main outlets and the sight of him progressing down the right wing can often be followed by a chance. His ball into the back post on 25 minutes very nearly found the outstretched Hughes, but he was centimeters from connecting.
Akins wasn’t performing to his full potential in the first half but was still managing to get into the positions that could threaten. The most memorable came five minutes later when a ball into the back post unexpectedly fell to the former Tranmere man but he neither took or touch or shot, and it bounced out of play.
End to end was a perfect way to describe the tie, and when Francois Zoko burst into the box Boro fans would have feared the worst, but Steve Arnold got his body in the way and held onto the ball exquisitely. Stevenage sustained some heavy bombardments into their penalty area before the break, but when it came the lead was intact.
After the restart Boro showed better signs, David Gray of all people saw a brilliant low shot deflected and Dunne hit a rocket that was blocked brilliantly, but at the other end Zoko went close. A lovely ball with the outside of Arquin’s foot found him, he controlled and turned before hitting a hard shot but it flew wide of the mark. Boro brought on Freeman for Akins to add some more pace to the attack and go in search of a second.
The rain was battering the playing surface and County began to move up a gear looking for an equaliser, although they were seeing much of possession they weren’t quite breaking through the defence as they would have liked. The introduction of Enoch Showunmi would aid their assault on the box, with 25 minutes to go.
Boro were holding on and the aerial assault continued, corner after corner was cleared and the closest the Pies came was with a volley that Dunne blocked well on the line. Concentration would be key for County ‘keeper Fabian Speiss though, and some late free kicks into his area could have yielded a second for Stevenage had he not organised his defence so well.
Haber came on for Beleck who had put in a strong shift in attack and it proved to be a masterstroke from Smith as with added time approaching the Canadian striker headed in from a Morais cross.
He rose well in the box and directed his header into the bottom left hand corner to all but certain the victory as a breathe of relief echoed around the Lamex Stadium.
Arnold; Gray, Roberts, Chorley, Comminges; Morais, Dunne, Tansey; Hoskins (Grant 63), Beleck (Haber 69), Akins (Freeman 53)Stevenage (4-3-3)
Day, Charles, Lopez, ShrootUnused Subs:
2550 (215 away)Att: