Speaking to the press after Saturday’s defeat at home to Doncaster Rovers, Boro manager Gary Smith admitted that he was heartbroken not to gain at least a point from the fixture.
Stevenage have been credited with putting in one of their better home performances from this season but fell short to two late goals and Smith described his feelings after the final whistle.
“Honestly, it’s heartbreaking given the performance. We played as well as, if not better than last week [the victory away to Crewe Alexandra] against a very good Doncaster side and we have nothing to show for it. Of course that is football.
“For everyone that was here, number one we showed a cutting edge, number two we competed and in most cases out-competed a very strong side, and thirdly and most importantly I think we have been undone by a bit of poor officiating for the first goal.”
Before the controversy, Stevenage took the lead through a goal of the season candidate from James Dunne and Smith had nothing but praise for the midfielder’s wonderful strike.
“The half time talk was all about a very competitive game, a game that was probably going to take a bit of inspiration to take the lead in and it was from James. I’m not sure there was too much to chose between the two teams in terms of their output but I did think that we had a little bit more of a cutting edge and showed a few more signs of finding that opening and it was an absolutely barn-storming strike from that opening goal.”
On-loan striker Hoskins looked lively after his introduction, and it was the first chance that the home support had to see his pace and trickery. His inclusion led to the main talking point from the tie and going into more detail on the incident that could have seen centre half Jamie McCombe given a red card and more importantly, prevented the build up to the game’s equaliser.
“Sam was wonderful when he came on, he has been terrific since he has been here and he comes into the game, he’s on the shoulders and the nippy, bright forward that we have been looking for for a while. His opening 25 minutes for us has been nothing short of terrific. He gets in a great position, the centre back committed himself to try and win it to early and he shoves it beyond him, and everything then beyond that tells us that the centre back should go off and we should be a man to the good at 1-0 up.
“The referee sees it completely differently and thirty seconds later it’s all square.”
To add to the feeling of injustice there appeared to be an offside further in the build up, but manager Smith admitted that it wasn’t something he had noticed when watching the game live, but said it would only add to his disappointment on reflection. All that aside, he revealed that his team would have to look at their own performance in the dying stages.
“I’m more upset about the build up, if you’re telling me that there is an infringement then still at that point, for everything that had gone on, all of the difficulties, the feeling as though fate wasn’t on your side, with two minutes of injury time left, to have conceded again and feel as flat as we are after the performance that we have put in is really upsetting.”
He continued “I think at this point what we have seen is two excellent performances now, playing in that 4-4-2 shape, the guys have warmed to it well and certainly the forwards that have played have looked really bright, they’ve looked an asset to the team now. We look like we’re going to create chances, we look like we’re going to score goals, we have done that consistently before now and we have just done it in two games on the spin. I know that doesn’t make a season but there is an awful lot to take away with encouragement. My disappointment is of course losing so late on which we have done too many times here and probably with the way that the officiating went, which was against us today.”
Smith will be looking for his side to bounce back on Saturday with a trip to Gigg Lane to take on relegation-placed Bury – looking to continue the strong away form a positive result will be on the lips of everyone at Stevenage FC as the push towards the Playoffs, where Stevenage remain just three points adrift, continues.