Stevenage fell to defeat at the Lamex Stadium as a Jabo Ibehre double made it six losses on the bounce.
The first half finished goalless and it was a fair reflection of a level game; both sides had their chances but neither could really stake a claim for the lead and there were few guilt edge efforts that would be looked back on with regret. It was Anthony Grant with the best opening, but he saw an instinctive shot from inside the six-yard box saved well.
It was the second 45 minutes that decided the game, both sides could have taken a chokehold on it but it was United that broke through first. Ibehre rose well in the box to head perfectly across goal and into the far corner and ten minutes later he had his second, this time a toe-poke over the line after a good ball from Gavin Massey.
They were two blows that Boro never really recovered from, but heads mustn’t drop with a home tie against Brentford to come on Tuesday night.
Boro began the game with far more attacking intent to their play than had been seen in recent weeks, and Marcus Haber had the match’s first shot but under pressure hit it wide. In for Steve Beleck, Haber was partnered by Lucas Akins in attack and behind them sat Grant in a more attacking position then we’d seen in a Stevenage shirt. It was Akins and Grant who paired up to create the chance with a well-won header and decent reverse ball. The Canadian striker had two men around him and did well to get his shot away, but in truth Sam Walker was untroubled.
Grant’s inclusion left Robin Shroot on the bench whilst Greg Tansey came in for Luke Freeman – it was a narrow Boro midfield, but one that gave the full backs the opportunity to push on if they felt it would aide an attack. They were being pinned back well though, and with half hour on the clock Gray’s best contribution was a quite brilliant block on the line. Porter strode forward on the right, cut inside and shot but Gray got in the way of it, it bounced out to Jabo Ibehre who shot from close range but somehow Chris Day pulled out an amazing save to deny him.
The away side settled into a rhythm and began to find some luck when attacking on their right wing; Chris Porter beat Charles at left back but couldn’t quite force an opening and at the other end Walker would have felt relatively untroubled. If the homework had been done on Stevenage though, he may well have been worried two minutes before the break.
Tansey brought the ball forward, space opened up in front of him and he had a sight of goal – head up he rifled his foot through it but failed to pull out a Greg-special and failed wide of the mark. The game remained goalless by the break, but both sides would have known that it was a winnable tie.
Stevenage came out of the blocks nicely in the second half and secured possession in the opposition half, winning a couple of throws and free kicks in dangerous positions but failing to carve out a chance. In defence Gray was called into action once more, making a fantastic challenge in the penalty area when a fortunate bounce seemed to present Gavin Massey with a chance.
Minutes later United had the lead, big striker Ibehre getting his name on the score sheet. Billy Clifford had a free kick after a foul by Dunne and magnificently hung it up in the air at the back post, it was met by a solid header from Ibehre but also a controlled effort, which nestled into the far top corner.
It got worse 10 minutes later; Ibehre had his second of the afternoon. The ball was played through on the left wing and Massey ran well onto it, the Boro defence stopped for a second, expecting to see the flag rise. It stayed down and he squared it across the six-yard box for Ibehre to simply tap over the line, leaving Day with no chance.
Boor never really looked like inspiring a comeback and in the time remaining failed to claw themselves back into the game.
Arnold, Iro, Comminges, HoskinsUnused Subs:
Day; Charles, Chorley, Roberts, Gray; Dunne (Freeman 66), Grant, Mahon (Shroot 75), Tansey; Akins (Beleck 62), Haber Stevenage (4-4-2)
: 3144 (437 away)Att