Stevenage fell to a 1-0 defeat to Coventry City this evening at Sixfields Stadium. A second-half Danny Seaborne header was enough to claim all three points for the Sky Blues in a game which Boro dominated, striking the woodwork twice and even saving a late penalty.
Graham Westley made changes to his starting XI with Steve Arnold preferred in goal to Chris Day, Jordan Burrow coming in up front for Darius Charles and Michael Doughty starting in midfield. New loan signing Conor Henderson, signed earlier in the afternoon from Hull City, was amongst the subs.
Back by a large travelling support Stevenage had the majority of the early play with Coventry seemingly content to sit back and hit Boro on the counter.
On four minutes the visitors nearly got the perfect start as they rattled the woodwork. A quick free-kick from Smith found Obeng out wide and his cross was headed onto the post by Akins with Joe Murphy beaten.
Zoko saw a shot deflect behind after 9 minutes and from the resulting set-play there were appeals for handball in the box, but the referee waved away Boro protests and it remained goalless.
18 minutes in and Coventry were handed a cheap free-kick 25 yard out after a foul on Anton Robinson. Up stepped John Fleck but the big wall did its job and blocked his fierce effort.
Doughty saw a drive blocked after neat build up play by Freeman and Zoko down the right and Obeng fired over as Boro kept up the pressure themselves.
At the other end Ashton had to be at his best to block Delfouneso, after the former Aston Villa striker had turned superbly in the box and threatened to get off a shot, with the ball then cleared from danger in a rare moment of panic for the visiting defence.
The best chance of the half came for Boro just two minutes before half time. A great run forward by Doughty saw him release Zoko down the flank and he fired in a dangerous cross. Akins missed with a near-post flick, Burrow couldn't get a clear touch to tap home and Freeman tried to control the ball when he should perhaps have shot first-time. Any of those three could have scored but Coventry somehow survived, cleared the danger and subsequently the two teams went into the break goalless.
The second half started much the same way as the first half had finished with Stevenage making all the running, albeit without creating many chances. The best opportunity fell to Freeman, who picked up a Smith free-kick in acres of space and blasted at goal but there were bodies in the way to block and the danger was gone.
It took a good quarter of an hour for the Sky Blues to really get out of their own half, such was Boro’s superiority in possession, but the hosts went close when Wilson headed a near post cross over.
Just past the hour good footwork by Freeman on the left saw the winger deliver a deep cross for Burrow, but his header lacked power and was comfortable for Murphy.
For all their dominance Boro fell behind to the only goal of the game just two minutes later. Freeman nodded a dangerous cross behind for a corner and from the subsequent delivery nobody picked up the run of Dan Seaborne who powered his header into the back of the net. 1-0 to Coventry.
Charles, Morais and Reid all came on as Stevenage went looking for an equaliser but the only real effort came from an 80th minute Obeng header straight at Murphy.
With five minutes remaining Coventry had the opportunity to double their lead and confirm all three points from the spot. Dembele was adjudged to have handled by the assistant referee but Steve Arnold was equal to Wilson’s effort and made a superb stop to give Boro hope.
That spurred the visitors on and they were cruelly denied by the woodwork for a second time with just minutes of normal time remaining. Stevenage caught the dozing defence out with a quick corner which saw Morais deliver and a Boro header come in, only for the ball to deflect onto the bar much to the frustration of the Boro faithful behind that goal.
Six minutes of injury time came and went without Stevenage forcing an equaliser, leaving them disappointed after an encouraging, yet ultimately pointless visit to Northampton.
With 24 points still up for grabs there are bound to be plenty of twists and turns in these remaining weeks. Graham Westley’s men, however, will solely be focused on winning all three at home to Port Vale on Saturday.
Coventry: Murphy, Willis, Clarke, Seaborne, Webster, Adams, Fleck, Moussa, Robinson, Delfouneso (Eccleston 77), Wilson
Subs not used: Burge, Christie, Thomas, Baker, Marshall, Haynes
Stevenage: Arnold, Ashton (Morais 81), Dembele, Mousinho, Obeng, Smith, Doughty, Freeman, Zoko, Burrow (Charles 75), Akins (Reid 81)
Subs not used: Day, Wedgbury, Hartley, Henderson
Referee: T Robinson
Attendance: 1,697 (437 away)