Stevenage were relegated from Sky Bet League 1 with a 3-1 home defeat to Bristol City this afternoon.
A first half goal from Wade Elliott was added to in the second half by further strikes from Sam Baldock and Stephen Pearson as the Robins cruised to victory against a Boro side who only had a late Luke Freeman free-kick to really celebrate.
Graham Westley made five changes to his starting XI for this game, handing Rohdell Gordon his first start and also recalling Sam Wedgbury, Luke Jones, Michael Doughty and Jordan Burrow. Scholar Fejiri Okenabirhie was named amongst the subs with the returning Tom Flanagan and Anderson Banvo also on the bench.
With so many changes to the starting XI it was always going to take a few minutes for Boro to settle and so it proved as City dominated the opening 10 minutes. Three times Chris Day was called into action as the hosts held on resolutely with two of those efforts coming from the league’s top scorer Sam Baldock.
First, with three minutes on the clock, he forced Daisy into a low save after dispossessing John Mousinho, before then seeing a sixth-minute close-range shot turned away after Cunningham had escaped Smith down the left flank. Moments later Day was again coming to Boro’s rescue, denying a powerful Derrick Williams header from a Marlon Pack corner.
Still Bristol came forward and when another Cunningham cross wasn’t dealt with, the home side were fortunate that Baldock’s header deflected narrowly wide.
After weathering the early storm Boro began to create opportunities of their own. A 17th minute driving run from Simon Heslop saw the midfielder feed Freeman down the left. He cut back onto his right foot and whipped in a cross which just evaded Jordan Burrow.
Within 60 seconds, neat interplay between Doughty, Freeman and Gordon saw the latter set his sights from 30 yards, but the youngster’s ambitious effort floated over.
Doughty was next to see a shot from distance head into the City fans before Bristol handed Stevenage another scare as they went close on 26 minutes when Baldock found himself through on goal. Back came Wedgbury to put him under pressure and Day saved well with his feet to deny the in-form striker.
Approaching the half-hour Day had to be alert once again to turn behind a deft header from Baldock’s strike partner Tyrone Barnett which looked to be creeping in the bottom corner, as City ramped up the pressure.
Just as Stevenage looked like reaching half-time level, that pressure eventually told when the visitors took the lead four minutes before the break. Baldock – who else - took out three Boro players with one pass, with the resulting cross from the right fired home by Wade Elliott at the back post.
Boro went looking for an equaliser and when Peter Hartley picked up possession just inside the Bristol half there looked little danger. But the defender advanced forward and pinged an effort towards the top corner which Simon Moore turned over acrobatically for a corner. Jones saw a header from the resulting corner cleared off the line in a carbon-copy of his late header at Bramall Lane on Friday night, but at the break it was the Robins with a narrow advantage.
Graham Westley's men came out for the second half with renewed purpose and when Burrow flicked a Smith cross into the path of Akins, the striker took a touch before turning and firing just wide.
Doughty saw a dangerous cross headed away and Moore denied Smith with a save as Boro continued to push forward, although a long-range shot from Elliott was a reminder of the Robins’ attacking intent.
Just past the hour Rohdell Gordon, who had looked bright in parts, went down injured and was replaced by fellow youngster Fejiri Okenabirhie for his Stevenage debut. The youngster was nearly straight into the action, latching onto a loose ball just outside the box but his snatched effort flew high over the North Terrace.
Boro were to rue that miss to an extent as City promptly doubled their lead, Baldock latching onto a lovely ball over the home defence before dispatching coolly past Day and celebrating in front of the travelling support.
To their credit the hosts continued to push forward with Doughty firing over, Okenabirhie seeing a shot blocked and Moore preventing Burrow from tucking home from close range.
However they were undone again 16 minutes from time when City scored a third. The superb Baldock was again involved, playing in substitute Stephen Pearson to roll home into the back of the net. To add insult to injury Steve Cotterill then threw on Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who had tormented Boro with two goals in the 4-1 defeat at Ashton Gate.
As he’d done against Colchester just a week ago, Luke Freeman scored what proved to be just a consolation with five minutes remaining when he found the top corner with a fine, curling free-kick from the edge of the area.
But the game was gone, as was Stevenage’s Sky Bet League 1 status, leaving everyone at the club to contemplate a return to League 2 following the final two remaining games.
Stevenage: Day, Smith, Jones, Mousinho, Hartley, Gordon (Okenabirhie 62), Wedgbury (N’Guessan 83), Heslop (Akins 39), Doughty, Freeman, Burrow
Subs not used: Arnold, Flanagan, Banvo, Henderson
Bristol City: Moore, Moloney (Wagstaff 88), Williams, Osborne, Nosworthy, Cunningham, Pack, Gillett, Elliott (Pearson 72), Barnett (Emmanuel-Thomas 80), Baldock
Subs not used: Richards, Kelly, Reid, Burns
Referee: Andrew Madley
Attendance: 2,901 (827 away)