Boro secure draw against Premier League opposition
Stevenage began their preparations for life back at The Lamex Stadium with an entertaining 2-2 draw with Premier League West Ham this afternoon.
Goals from Tom Pett and a trialist gave Boro a 2-0 lead but late goals from experienced wingers Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing saw the Hammers come from behind to secure a draw.
After a quiet start in which both sides traded early free-kicks, it was Stevenage who created the first chance on goal on seven minutes.
Darius Charles was hauled down on the edge of the box and up stepped Roarie Deacon to curl a beauty over the wall, with only a top save from Adrian preventing it from nestling in the top corner. It was a fine stop from a goalkeeper who was to go on to have an eventful 45 minutes.
West Ham gradually came into the game and enjoyed some good periods of possession in midfield, but were unable to break down a stubborn Boro defence. Hammers skipper Kevin Nolan was central to their attacking threat with a couple of close-range efforts which failed to hit the target, before Boro took the lead in fortunate circumstances.
A ball forward looked easy enough for Adrian to gather on the slide, but when he spilt possession there was Tom Pett to side-foot home into an empty net to give Boro the advantage.
The Spaniard was soon red-faced again when he failed to juggle a high ball to safety, handing Boro a corner. Fortunately for him the Hammers defence was able to clear.
At the other end Nolan continued to keep Boro’s back four on their toes. First a low clearance from Worley fell to the Hammers skipper who side-footed just wide of the far post. Moments later only a fine challenge from Wells prevented him from sneaking in on goal.
Seemingly unfazed by their Premier League opposition, Stevenage kept up the pressure and rattled the woodwork thanks to yet more hesitancy from Adrian. Deacon’s ball from the left looked a regulation take for the Spaniard but the ball squirmed loose and there was Andy Bond to smash the loose ball against the post.
The final action of the half again saw Boro on the attack, when Simon Walton found Charles in the box with a low pass but the striker saw his low shot blocked.
Stevenage remained unchanged for the start of the second half whilst Sam Allardyce played an entirely new eleven, packed again with international experience.
Stewart Downing fired a fierce effort just wide as the visitors looked for an equaliser but it was Boro who again found the back of the net on 52 minutes, although it would fail to trouble the scoreboard.
Fresh from watching his counterpart endure a troubled opening 45, sub ‘keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen failed to gather a Walton free-kick and Charles looked to have doubled Boro’s advantage. However Dembele helped the ball home from an offside position and the goal was disallowed
With Boro pushing forward the Hammers seemed content to hit Boro with a series of long balls forward. Dean Wells did superbly to thwart one attack with an excellent covering tackle before Elliott Lee raced through just past the hour but his low cross evaded everyone.
Cheikhou Kouyate was next to go close, beating Sam Beasant to one cross but his header flew over.
Chris Whelpdale came on for Marriott, Charles came off for a trialist and Jon Ashton replaced Harry Worley as Boro made subs with 20 minutes remaining. Ash was straight into the action, challenging Mo Diame well as the midfielder charged into the box before going down looking for a penalty. The referee was having none of it though and waved the visiting appeals away.
However for all their second half pressure the Hammers fell further behind on 74 minutes when a smart turn from the trialist was followed by a neat finish into the bottom corner.
Ryan Johnson and Rohdell Gordon came on for Dean Wells and Andy Bond as Westley gave minutes to some of his younger squad members in the closing stages, with N’Guessan testing Jaaskelainen with a low effort shortly afterwards.
West Ham pulled one back with seven minutes remaining when Demel’s cross was nodded home at the back post by a diving Matt Jarvis. And Stewart Downing rescued the Hammers’ blushes with a late pinpoint header to equalise after a great cross from the left.
Stevenage will be pleased to have put in such a good performance for long periods of the game but know there is much work to be done ahead of the new league season. Next up it’s a trip to Barnet on Tuesday night before Millwall are the visitors to The Lamex Stadium next Saturday.
Stevenage: Beasant, Henry, Worley (Ashton 65), Wells (Johnson 79), Dembele, Pett (N’Guessan 72), Bond (Gordon 83), Walton, Deacon, Charles (Trialist 65), Marriott (Whelpdale 69)
West Ham 1st half: Adrian, O’Brien, Reid, Chambers, Cresswell, Noble, Poyet, Nolan, Vaz Te, McCallum, Morrison
West Ham 2nd half: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Collins, Tomkins, Potts, Kouyate, Whitehead, Downing, Diame, Jarvis, E.Lee