Marcus Haber fired Stevenage to victory but it was an inspired team performance that secured the three points in a pulsating affair at the Lamex Stadium.
It was a brilliant occasion down Broadhall Way, full of desire, fight, atmosphere and drama and the result was justice to the performance of Gary Smith’s side, who played out of their skins from start to finish and for their reward. Sam Hoskins and Luke Freeman, in particular linked up brilliantly, but in truth picking individuals would not be what this victory was about.
Haber netted what proved to be the winner, latching onto a brilliant header back into the danger by Mark Roberts and sliding the ball under the Bees goalkeeper.
More than just three points, the performance itself was worthy of the Stevenage shirt and more of the same will see Smith’s side haul themselves away from the bad form that came before the tie.
Intensity was the buzzword, and Stevenage certainly had it. More than had been seen in a long time, more than Brentford could handle. Two corners inside the opening six minutes were very different; the first came low to the front post and appeared to flick up and hit an arm – no penalty said the ref. The next, high and deep to the back post, was met by a powerful header from Gavin Mahon; unmistakable in the area he rose with promise but his effort cannoned back off the post – a six-yard box scramble ensued, but the Bees got it clear. Penalty area chances aside, the desire was clear to see – high pressing, hard tackling and slick passing, Boro were in search of three points.
The woodwork came to Brentford’s rescue again within ten minutes, this time big Haber came close. Another corner was forced after Luke Freeman’s ravishing run down the left; he beat two men and crossed the ball well only to see it cleared behind the goal. His next delivery almost added an assist to his tally as it found Haber at the back post, he met it with a bullet header only to see it cannon off the cross bar.
Uwe Rosler’s side began to sniff their way into the game but were relying on set plays to threaten – a few 50/50 decisions went their way allowing an opportunity to cross, and also hampering Boro’s attempts to retain the momentum, but they were unsuccessful with their deliveries. With the way things have gone recently there was a worry in the air that not taking the lead during such a period of dominance might come back to haunt us, and when Haber headed well after a wonder-cross from Freeman it was gut-wrenching to see Moore save it low to his left.
After the break Boro seemed to sustain the pressure, but still the rub of the green evaded them and little decisions were going against them. For the first time in the tie Clayton Donaldson and Bradley Wright-Phillips showed dangerous signs – The former sprinted onto a through ball but saw his shot saved by Arnold and the latter showed individual skill, cutting inside and beating two players but rifling his shot high and wide.
The game unfolding on the Lamex turf was of the highest standard – end-to-end, chance after chance, yet still no goal. Haber won a corner that was crossed towards the front post, Roberts flicked it on with his head but it flashed across goal, unbelievably not being turned in on its way wide.
The game certainly leveled out, but in truth despite possession being shared Stevenage edged it on chances. With 15 minutes remaining the reward for the effort and passion came, Haber broke the deadlock.
Boro had a throw in the final third, it looked like it had been wasted and cleared but up stepped captain Mark Roberts who rose and cannoned a header forward. Not only did he meet it well, but he put it into the box, and into the path of the Canadian striker, he slid in and beat the ‘keeper to it, slotting it under him and into the back of the net. The home fans erupted.
The first change for the home side came on 84 minutes, Anthony Grant on for Tansey. It followed Wright-Phillips shooting low but he saw Arnold save his effort with ease, victory felt close. Four minutes were held on the fourth official’s board as Haber secured another final third throw in.
Time ticked away, Boro had the ball up field, the Bees couldn’t get close. Even the late nerves of a usual slim victory were replaced by a belief, and the referee’s final whistle confirmed an abrupt end to the form of recent weeks.
Day, Jeffrey, Iro, BeleckUnused Subs:
Arnold; Gray, Roberts, Charles, Comminges; Mahon; Tansey (Grant 84), Dunne (Akins 89), Freeman; Haber, Hoskins (Shroot 90) Stevenage (4-1-3-2)
2794 (882 away)Att: