Stevenage came from two goals down at half-time to secure a 2-2 draw against a youthful Manchester United XI this evening at The Lamex Stadium.
In a game of two halves Boro actually dominated the opening 20 minutes but conceded twice in quick succession to head into the break behind. But the second half saw a reinvigorated home side continue to create chances with a Darius Charles double sealing a draw.
Stevenage came out of the blocks flying and created numerous opportunities to open the scoring. Luke Jones, Roarie Deacon, Simon Heslop and Greg Tansey all went close with efforts with Luke Freeman seemingly at the heart of the majority of Boro’s good moves.
Oumare Tounkara had a chance on 13 minutes as he went after a loose back-pass but only some fancy footwork by Sam Johnstone in the United goal prevented the Frenchman from robbing the ball.
The visitors gradually came into the game with Sam Byrne having their first real effort on goal after 25 minutes. James Weir broke forward and fed the striker whose cross-cum-shot from the left hand edge of the box went wide.
Boro continued to push forward when what is becoming a trademark Sam Wedgbury surge down the right was halted illegally by a United defender. Freeman’s free-kick was put behind for a corner, but when it came back to the winger out on the right he cut inside and unleashed a fierce shot which Johnstone turned behind acrobatically.
Whilst the hosts looked much more likely to score first it therefore came as a surprise when United took the lead, Byrne finishing coolly with a curling effort past a diving Chris Day after Boro failed to clear their lines.
Darius Charles saw a shot turned behind by Johnstone before United doubled their lead on 36 minutes when Joe Rothwell neatly fired home first time from a right-wing cross.
James Dunne came on for Roarie Deacon as Graham Westley opted for a change and last year’s Player of the Season immediately forced Johnstone into action yet again, this time from a driven cross from the right.
Half Time – Stevenage 0, Manchester United XI 2
Within minutes of the restart Boro forced two great chances to half the deficit. Firstly Darius Charles saw an effort take a deflection and wrong-foot the ‘keeper before trickling wide for a corner. Then from the resulting set piece Jon Ashton powered a header at goal from the back post but Johnstone palmed away at full stretch.
Eight minutes into the second half and Boro did pull one back. A surging run from James Dunne saw him release Charles in space in the box and the big striker finished calmly into the far corner.
Moments later and it could have been all square. Tounkara latched onto a long Jon Ashton clearance and ran at goal. With options to his right the striker opted to shoot and drew another save from Johnstone.
Just 10 minutes after their first goal, Boro equalised as Charles found the back of the net with a thunderbolt to level the scores. It was nothing more than Boro deserved after troubling the Manchester United goal all night.
Stevenage again pushed forward and came close to completely turning the game on its head with a third. A great cross from the left by Freeman was missed by Tounkara but the ball hit the covering defender and flew just wide for a Boro corner.
With 16 minutes remaining James Dunne charged forward on a 40 yard run before releasing Wedgbury in the box – but the defender went for glory and blazed over.
Sub Paul Reid – on for skipper Jon Ashton at the back – then forced Johnstone into yet another save with a curling effort from the edge of the box after a neat corner routine. Tounkara got his header to the rebound but his header bounced agonizingly wide.
United looked dangerous on the break throughout the match and with 10 minutes remaining the United supporters thought they had a third, however Jack Barmby's shot hit the side-netting.
The hosts continued to look for a third goal and went close with a couple of late efforts from Freeman – he dragged his first chance agonizingly wide of the right hand upright and saw his second chance saved – before the referee blew for full-time.
Overall Boro’s final home pre-season game was one of excitement and full of goal mouth action, with manager Graham Westley no doubt pleased at the number of times the opposition keeper was called into action.
The team now travels to Hitchin Town for a friendly tomorrow afternoon (3pm kick-off at Top Field) before attention turns to the visit of Oldham Athletic in next weekend’s first home league game of the season.
Boro: Day, Wedgbury, Ashton (Reid), Jones, Hills, Freeman, Heslop, Tansey, Deacon (Dunne), Tounkara (Lopez), Charles (Burrow).
Subs not used: Thompson (GK), Ball, Gray, Shroot,
Man Utd XI: Sam Johnstone; Donald Love, Louis Rowley, Patrick McNair, Liam Grimshaw, James Weir, Jack Rudge (Josh Harrop), Joe Rothwell, James Wilson (Fisayo Adarabioyo), Jack Barmby, Sam Byrne (Ashley Fletcher).
Subs not used: Pierluigi Gollini, Callum Evans