Stevenage put in a fantastic team effort to take all three points at Peterborough this afternoon with a 1-0 win.
Lucas Akins scored the only goal of the game in the first half as Boro dominated and despite the dismissal of Jimmy Smith on the hour, the visitors put in an outstanding performance to secure a notable away win.
Skipper Jon Ashton returned for Boro with Chris Day also fit to play after coming off at half-time against Rotherham. Stevenage old boy Michael Bostwick was named in the Peterborough team.
Stevenage were first out of the blocks in this game and created the opening chance inside two minutes when Michael Doughty won the ball on the halfway line and fed Akins. His pass found Zoko in the box, who held off his defender before firing into the side netting.
Stevenage free-kicks have kept opponent on their toes this season and it was the same again here when Gabriel Zakuani was cautioned for bringing down Morais halfway inside the Posh half. With colleagues waiting in a line, Jimmy Smith flicked the ball up and volleyed into the box but the defence cleared.
Peterborough’s first attacking move of note came on 8 minutes. With team-mates lurking in the box, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing put in a dangerous cross from the right but there was Lucas Akins tracking back well to put the ball behind and prevent a chance on goal.
From the resulting corner Luke Jones cleared at the near post and setup a Boro counter-attack. Doughty found Morais, who tried his luck from fully 35 yards with an ambitious effort which failed to trouble the keeper.
Stevenage were asking all the questions early on and clearly frustrating their hosts. Lee Tomlin was the next into the book for Posh for dissent when the ref awarded a free-kick for a foul on Freeman.
The visitors kept up the pressure and continued to play the game in Peterborough’s half. On the quarter hour Jimmy Smith robbed possession and tried to feed Zoko but his cross was just behind the Ivorian.
Freeman and Smith both saw shots blocked and moment later Zoko showed great strength and footwork to outfox two defenders and race towards goal before Posh eventually regained possession.
However Stevenage got the goal their work thoroughly merited on 20 minutes. Morais picked up the ball in midfield and found Doughty. The QPR-loanee burst forward, taking a defender with him, and found Akins on the right, who cut into the box and fired in a left-footed effort which beat Olejnik and found the top corner.
Craig Alcock and Tomlin both had chances to equalise as Posh looked for an immediate reponse before Chris Day helped an effort over the bar after Mendez-Laing had burst into the box and crossed the ball into the danger zone.
Doughty and Smith both entered the referee’s notebook in the first half for misdemeanours - Smith’s booking would come back to haunt Boro’s number 20 in the second half.
After a near perfect opening 45 minutes Boro went close to increasing their lead in injury time when Zoko robbed Zakuani and Morais picked up possession in space. He advanced to the edge of the ‘D’ and fired in an effort which Olejnik parried behind.
Stevenage began the second half as they’d finished the first, looking comfortable in possession and looking for a second goal. They won a couple of corners in the opening five minutes but neither saw a real chance on goal created.
At the other end Mendez-Laing threatened to create something when he collected the ball out wide and advanced towards the box, but there was Peter Hartley with an excellent tackle and Boro cleared.
Ten minutes in the half Peterborough were handed a dangerous free-kick to the side of the penalty area, with Jones booked for his foul on substitute Nthle. Lee Tomlin put the ball in but it was comfortable for Day.
Moments later fans were treated to one of the more bizarre sights of the season when Jones tackled inside his own box and ended up sitting on the ball. He was surrounded by players from both sides, all attempting to get to the ball. The ref watched on from close range before eventually awarding a free-kick to Boro – a decision met with howls of derision from the home faithful.
Both teams had efforts around the hour mark, with Morais firing a shot straight at Olejnik and Tommy Rowe seeing a dipping effort bounce off the top of the bar with Day beaten.
Stevenage were dealt a blow just minutes later when Jimmy Smith was sent off for a second yellow. Peterborough broke from a Boro corner and when Smith stood his ground against an advancing player who tumbled to the floor, the referee awarded a free-kick and handed Smith an early bath.
In most games this kind of situation might be called ‘the turning point’ but Boro ensured his wouldn’t be the case with a superb last 30 minutes.
Morais, Zoko and Ashton were all cautioned in separate incidents as Posh flooded forward but the hosts failed to make anything from these opportunities to get the ball forward.
When chances did come their way substitute Tyrone Barnett wasted both, seeing his effort from a Mendez-Laing cross fly over and a header bounce tamely wide. He was ruled offside in any case.
Peterborough continued to push on but were constantly thwarted by a combination of excellent defending by Boro and their own poor decision making in their attacking third.
On one such occasion Akins easily intercepted a pass and played the ball to Zoko, with what happened next a candidate for ‘individual skill of the season’. The Ivorian showed great strength to hold off a number of players before somehow turning them all and advancing down the right. Not content with that, he bamboozled another defender before getting into the box. It was a superb piece of individual work by the Ivorian, sadly not matched by his cross into the box which failed to find Doughty in space.
Posh were getting desperate now and throwing everything at Stevenage but the visitors defended heroically, either tackling, heading away, blocking or intercepting every ball into the box.
With five minutes remaining Boro old boy Michael Bostwick tried his luck from distance but, unlike many of his strikes in a Stevenage shirt, his effort flew high over the bar.
At the other end, despite being a man down, Stevenage were keeping the ball well when they had possession. Akins saw an effort similar to his goal fly wide whilst Freeman saw an effort blocked by a covering Posh defender after Wedgbury fed him on the counter.
Into five minutes of injury time and Jones, Hartley and Heslop all blocked crosses or shots as Peterborough looked for an undeserved equaliser. Instead Graham Westley’s men saw out the game superbly to register a much needed three points and send the large, noisy travelling faithful home happy.
Peterborough: Olejnik, Alcock (Nthle 28), Zakuani, Bostwick, Payne, Tomlin, Vassell (Jeffers 71), Rowe, Mendez-Laing, Ephraim, Little (Barnett 70)
Subs not used: Day, Swanson, McCann, Anderson
Boro: Day, Smith, Jones, Ashton, Hartley, Akins, Heslop, Doughty (Wedgbury 80), Freeman, Zoko, Morais (Gray 67)
Subs not used: Arnold, Burrow, Tansey, Andrade, Deacon
Ref: M Jones