Stevenage made it three wins on the bounce and nine points over the Christmas period with a hard fought 3-2 win over Cambridge United this afternoon.
Charlie Lee continued his recent run of goals with a superb lob to put Boro ahead in the 13th minute only for Ryan Bird to equalise just eight minutes later. Parity was short-lived however as further goals from Tom Pett and Dean Parrett put the hosts in a commanding position. Cambridge pushed in the second half and pulled one back with six minutes remaining to set up a nervy finish but Boro held on.
Team news saw the same starting eleven and subs named as the Boxing Day victory at Dagenham, meaning places again on the bench for long-term injury returnees Adam Marriott and Calvin Zola.
Stevenage came out on the blocks flying and showed good attacking intent inside the opening minutes with Lee just failing to latch onto a ball over the top.
The game remained even as the two teams found their feet however it wasn’t long before Boro struck first blood and in spectacular style. Ryan Brunt played a lovely ball over the top for Lee to latch onto and he produced a lovely lobbed finish over the stranded Dunn and into the far corner for his third goal in three games.
The same combination went close moments later as Cambridge failed to react to a Brunt header which Lee controlled for Whelpdale to cut inside and fire straight at Dunn.
Tom Champion fired over centrally from 20 yards after good approach play as United pushed for an equaliser, which promptly came just two minutes later when Ryan Bird fired home after Boro failed to clear a free-kick.
Back came Graham Westley’s men though and within a minute they had the chance for 2-1 when Whelpdale looked to capitalise on a flap by Dunn, following a good run by Parrett, but saw his low shot blocked.
It wasn’t long however until the hosts retook the lead on the half hour, with the in-form Charlie Lee in the thick of it again. He showed great work to keep the ball from running out for a goal-kick, swivelled and produced a fabulous cross over the left-back for Pett to gleefully volley home via the post and the ‘keeper.
Cambridge were rocking defensively with both Dunn and his defence looking particularly shaky. It came at a huge cost as Whelpdale exposed yet more frailties on 37 minutes to rob possession for Parrett to latch onto just inside the box and smash home into the top corner to send the home fans wild. 3-1.
For all the positives on the pitch, Stevenage were dealt a blow moments before the break when Ryan Brunt – again so impressive with his link-up play - went down in a heap and had to be replaced by Chris Beardsley.
Cambridge were out first after the break but it was Stevenage with the opening chance of the half, when Pett crossed for Whelpdale to run onto and steer a curling header just wide of Dunn’s far post.
After their poor first half it was clear Cambridge had been given some choice words at half-time as they finally managed to retain possession for periods and probing Boro’s back line. However for all their pressure Stevenage defended their corners well and also had to rely on a little bit of luck as Chadwick’s mazy run and shot saw the ball dribble just past Day’s far post.
Still the hosts looked dangerous on the counter with Beardsley working hard up top and Parrett bursting from midfield to create chances, including one 67th minute shot from outside the box which Dunn watched all the way before parrying wide.
With 20 minutes remaining Graham Westley threw on Roarie Deacon to inject some pace up top and within minutes the sub won the ball in midfield and played in Beardsley, only for the sub to shoot across Dunn and wide.
Cambridge, however, had their tails up and their subs injected more life in the closing stages as Boro looked to defend their lead. Time and again the U’s bombarded the penalty area but Stevenage were largely standing up to everything thrown at them.
With six minutes remaining Adam Cunnington volleyed home at the back post for 3-2 to give the U’s hope, following a succession of balls across Boro’s box, to set up a nervy finish.
Even then Lee could have capped the win with a fourth when he gathered a Beardsley take-down and smashed at goal only for Dunn to make the block.
Five minutes came and thankfully went without too much incident leaving Boro fans happy after a very profitable and enjoyable Christmas period.
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Wells, Charles, Okimo, Pett, McAllister, Parrett, Whelpdale (Deacon 68), Lee, Brunt (Beardsley 43)
Subs not used: Beasant, Walton, Conlon, Zola, Marriott
Cambridge: Dunn, Tait, Taylor, Coulson, Miller, Champion, Cunnington, Simpson (Kaikai 71), Hughes, Chadwick (Taylor 77), Bird (Chiedozie 71)
Subs not used: Norris, Nelson, Atkinson, Hurst
Referee: Fred Graham
Attendance: 4,579 (1,624 away)