Stevenage failed to upstage Oldham after their FA Cup heroics at the weekend and left without a point despite a spirited first half at the Lamex Stadium.
Boro had an early lead through James Dunne with a tremendous low shot into the bottom corner and in a dominant first half the same player had the ball in the net a second time only to see his effort chalked off by the lineswoman.
Despite spending the first 45 minutes attacking in large periods it took less than a minute of the second half for an equaliser to be created. Dean Furman had it with a neat finish into the bottom corner and before the hour mark the game had turned on its head as James Tarkowski headed home to give the Latics the lead.
Stevenage pushed for an equaliser but fell short in attack and were left to rue the loss of a winning position.
Smith made two changes to the side that began the game at Griffin Park a week earlier; Sam Hoskins began on the bench with Steve Beleck coming into the two-pronged attack alongside Marcus Haber, whilst James Dunne replaced the injured Greg Tansey in the middle, a switch that would prove fruitful early on for Boro.
They began the game well and the atmosphere at the stadium matched, it was a cold evening but Stevenage were in Oldham’s faces and showing a real fight to their play. With less than 10 minutes on the clock they had a deserved lead. A throw in on the right hand side found Akins, he held his marker off well before putting a low ball into the box which Freeman strode onto – his effort was under pressure and fell to the edge of the box where Dunne rifled a shot goal wards and it nestled perfectly into the bottom corner before the Boro midfielder wheeled away to celebrate with the East Terrace.
Just a few minutes later the positive start continued to ooze chances, this time Ben Chorley came close when a powerful header from a corner was well-saved by Alex Cisak and moments later Freeman cut inside and beat two men before rifling a shot which was blocked in the penalty area.
At the other end Chris Day, who retained his place despite the return from suspension of Steve Arnold, was rarely troubled. Tom Smith, fresh from FA Cup heroics with his head, could only direct his effort over the bar and that was all the Latics really threw at Boro in the opening half.
Before the break, and with Stevenage still in the ascendancy, Dunne got his second – but the flag of the referee’s assistant ruled it out. Akins strode forward with menace and his shot turned cross found Dunne who tapped it over the line. The midfielder was furious but his arguments fell on deaf ears.
The need for a second goal was evident and it took just 30 seconds of the second period to really highlight that as the away side equalised. Captain Furman got it with a low strike tucked into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. He picked up the ball from a calm header directed his was by Smith and slotted it home sweetly.
Oldham were showing all the attacking intent and ferocity that Boro had in the first half, they had taken all the momentum Stevenage had created and turned it against the home side. With that in mind, it wasn’t long before they took the lead.
It had been coming. Smith went close but Day’s fingertips kept him at bay but by the hour mark there was nothing the Boro ‘keeper could do. Grounds whipped in a corner to the far post, it looked to have evaded every body in the box but Tarkowski came in with a dramatic diving header and smashed the ball into the back of the net.
Smith was trying to get his side back into the game and introduced Shroot and Hoskins to bolster the attack but the late surge into the opposition area couldn’t produce a leveler.
Arnold, Hills, Roberts, IroUnused Subs:
Day; Gray, Chorley, Charles, Comminges; Akins (Shroot 76), Dunne, Grant, Freeman; Haber, Beleck (Hoskins 64) Stevenage (4-4-2)