Stevenage suffered a 2-1 defeat on the road at Rotherham this afternoon in a game which the visitors will be bitterly disappointed to return home pointless from.
Graham Westley’s men dominated much of the game but fell behind to a controversial Wes Thomas goal in the first half. Chances came and went for both sides – predominantly for Boro – in the second and Zoko looked to have secured a point with an 86th minute equaliser. However a winner two minutes later from Lee Frecklington was enough to hand the Millers all three points at the New York Stadium.
Stevenage manager Graham Westley made two changes to his starting XI from the 3-1 win against Gillingham, with skipper Jon Ashton and Filipe Morais returning in place of Luke Jones and Dean Parrett, both of whom were named amongst the subs.
The hosts forged the first opportunity of the game within two minutes after winning a free-kick on the edge of the area, but Chris Day was equal to Ben Pringle’s crisp effort.
Nine minutes in and Darius Charles chased a lost cause down the left channel before being fouled. From the resulting set-piece Morais’ delivery was punched clear and although the ball fell once again for ‘big D’, his control let him down and the chance went begging. Moments later the big front man was crudely brought down again, with Smith opting for a quick free-kick out wide but Akins was flagged offside.
Boro certainly enjoyed the better of the possession in the opening 15 quarter of an hour with the contingent of away fans behind Day’s goal the only source of noise as Stevenage kept the home crowd quiet.
18 minutes in and Boro should really have taken the lead. Akins again found space on the right and swung in a cross which Zoko met, but could only head straight at Collin. A let-off for Rotherham and a chance blown by Stevenage.
Three minutes later Pringle broke free down the left for Rotherham and swung in a cross which Revell met with a flick only for Day to help it over the bar. Within minutes the tall striker set his sights again but his effort from distance bobbled tamely wide.
Boro continued to knock the ball around comfortably with Smith and Morais looking particularly effective in midfield.
After playing a neat one-two with Akins, Heslop fired in a dangerous cross which Arnason could only slice over his own bar, whilst soon afterwards Freeman saw another shot deflect behind after being played in by Charles.
Seven minutes before the break Mousinho was penalised for a foul on Revell and Rotherham had a central free-kick 25 yards out. Up stepped Pringle but his effort failed it make it past the wall and Boro cleared.
Despite being second best for much of the first half it was the hosts who took the lead in controversial circumstances on 41 minutes. Two heroic blocks inside the area looked to have saved Boro only for Wes Thomas to sweep home a driven diagonal ball from Bradley at the back post. Boro were convinced Day was fouled in the build-up, with Westley and Maamria also remonstrating with the officials, but to no avail.
Straight from kick-off Stevenage nearly restored parity. Freeman was hauled down on the left wing with Mr Mathieson handing Boro a free-kick. From Morais’ delivery, Hartley powered a header at goal but Collin parried superbly and the defender’s second effort went over as The Millers went into the break 1-0 up.
Boro came out for the second half with renewed vigor and within seconds of the restart Zoko found himself with the ball inside the box, but his left-footed effort skewered wide.
The chances kept coming for the visitors. First Akins retrieved a lost cause down the right and played it back to Morais, whose dangerous cross was somehow cleared over his own bar by a Millers defender. Then Freeman saw a shot fly wide and Heslop shot an effort deflect behind as Boro piled on the pressure.
Despite holding the lead Rotherham’s chances were few and far between, although on 55 minutes Day did come to the rescue, parrying Revell’s shot after the big striker found time and space just inside the box. The ball was recycled and came back in but there was Hartley to clear bravely.
Up the other end, Zoko picked up a loose ball and beat his defender before putting in a dangerous ball which just evaded strike partner Charles.
Jimmy Smith was enjoying spreading balls around the park but just past the hour one cross-field pass was intercepted and played out to Pringle. The blonde winger’s cross to the back post was met by Thomas but his header flew high and wide and the danger was gone.
Roarie Deacon and Dean Parrett came on for Charles and Morais respectively as GW opted for changes. Within minutes a neat ball over the top from the latter nearly found Zoko, but a defender was there to clear behind.
With 10 minutes left the Ivorian controlled well in the box and laid the ball on a plate for the incoming Heslop, but he was tackled as he went to pull the trigger, handing Boro yet another corner.
Shortly afterwards Burrow came on for Ashton in a move which left Hartley as the only recognised defender on the pitch for Boro. Heslop and Smith dropped into a back-four with Deacon on the left.
With just four minutes of normal time remaining Boro thought they had secured a very deserved point when Zoko reacted quickest to smash home at the back post from Stevenage’s ninth corner of the game.
But within two minutes of the restart, Rotherham robbed possession and fed Lee Frecklington in space on the edge of the area. The midfielder opted for placement over power and found the bottom corner with a lovely curling effort to restore the Millers’ lead.
Six minutes of injury time came and went with Boro unable to force man-of-the-match Collin into any further action. The defeat keeps Stevenage rooted to the bottom of the table however with performances like that, surely the points will start to come sooner rather than later.
Rotherham: Collin, Bradley, Arnason, Davis (Addison 71), Tavernier, Agard, Smallwood, Frecklington, Pringle, Thomas (Adams 80), Revell (Vuckic 71)
Subs not used: Shearer, Skarz, O'Connor, Hitchcock
Stevenage: Day, Ashton (Burrow 82), Mousinho, Hartley, Akins, Smith, Heslop, Freeman, Morais (Parrett 69), Zoko, Charles (Deacon 68)
Subs not used: Arnold, Wedgbury, Jones, N'Guessan
Referee: S Mathieson