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29 March 2014

Stevenage picked up a point with a 1-1 draw at home to Port Vale this afternoon.


After a goalless and largely uneventful first 45, the game burst into life in the second half with two goals and a number of close chances. Tom Pope gave Vale the lead with a 47th minute header, before sub Peter Hartley equalised with a header of his own on the hour.

Team news saw Graham Westley recall Filipe Morais and Darius Charles to his starting XI with new loanees Tom Flanagan, Anderson Banvo and Conor Henderson also amongst the subs. Steve Arnold was named in goal but suffered an injury during the warm-up, meaning a recall for Chris Day between the sticks.

It was a quiet opening period notable only for a couple of corners won by the visitors, each of which Boro were able to clear with relative ease.

Just before the 15 minute mark a neat pass just evaded Obeng, momentarily leaving a 2 v 1 in Port Vale’s favour. However the defender used his space to get back and Loft’s attempted cross for Tomlin had too much on it and the chance was gone.

23 minutes in and Boro were handed a free-kick near the corner for a foul on Morais. Smith tapped it to Freeman, who evaded one challenge and dribbled along the box before firing in an effort which was blocked.

Another Loft cross just evaded Tomlin as the visitors again threatened, with Dembele then booked on the half hour for an aerial challenge on Tom Pope. Chris Lines’ delivery just evaded Ashton’s outstretched foot and went behind for a goal kick.

The best chance of the half came moments before half time and went to the visitors. From another free-kick conceded by Dembele, Joe Davis got his head to Lines’ cross but the ball flew over and it remained goalless.

With Dembele looking in danger of a potential second yellow Westley made a half-time sub, replacing the Frenchman with Peter Hartley.

The half began brightly for Boro when Lucas Akins went on a run into the box and saw his shot deflected. The keeper was already diving the other way but there was a Vale player to clear the danger.

Indeed moments later it was 1-0 to the visitors. Chris Birchall was given time and space on the right to whip in a beautiful ball to the back post where Tom Pope had the simplest of headers back past Day into the far corner.

Filipe Morais had looked lively on his return to the starting eleven and created a couple of decent chances to equalise himself. One shot, from a driving run forward, was blocked with Freeman and Zoko in close attendance. Then moments later the winger picked up a quick Zoko throw and tried his luck from the edge of the box, but there was Johnson to save.

Charles was next to go agonisingly close. Akins picked up possession in acres of space, drove forward and found Darius in the box, who took a touch with his left and shot just wide with his right.

However Boro finally got the equaliser that their play deserved on the hour. A foul on Akins out wide handed the hosts a free-kick. Although Smith tried to take an early kick the referee brought play back, although this was to have a positive effect. Up stepped Freeman to swing the ball in and there was Hartley with a free header of his own to draw the game level.

Buoyed by that equaliser Boro continued to push forward with Morais again in the thick of the action. He forced Johnson into another low save before then causing the Vale keeper to be at full stretch to ensure another shot from the winger didn’t creep into the back of the net.

Despite Stevenage being on top, Vale remained dangerous on the break and when Tomlin tricked his way to the edge of the penalty spot and found Loft in space it presented a real threat. Fortunately the winger’s effort dribbled wide, much to Boro’s relief. Moments later Birchall found himself in space by the touchline but took his eye off the ball and could only nudge it behind for a goal-kick.

The final 20 minutes promised much but ultimately proved frustrating for both sets of fans. Charles did superbly to recover what looked a lost cause on the left to win a corner, but Vale cleared. And then only a last-gasp challenge denied Freeman a shot on goal after yet more good work by Morais. Similarly at the other end, Boro’s defence were proving stubborn and were snuffing out any Port Vale attacks.

With 10 minutes to go Westley handed Anderson Banvo and Simon Heslop the chance to impress in place of Morais and Mousinho respectively. And whilst the subs looked lively and tried to make things happen, as Boro pushed for a late winner, there were no further clear cut chances.

A point for Boro, combined with results elsewhere ensure it’s pretty much ‘as you were’ at the bottom of the Sky Bet League 1 table. However with high-flying Wolves coming to town on Tuesday night, there remains an opportunity to pick up more points in the battle for survival in just a matter of days.

Day, Obeng, Ashton, Dembele (Hartley 46), Charles, Morais (Banvo 79), Smith, Mousinho (Heslop 79), Freeman, Akins, ZokoStevenage:

Subs not used: Ashton, Burrow, Flanagan, Henderson

Johnson, Jones, Robertson, Loft, Tomlin (Dodds 84), Pope, Davis, Lines, Duffy, Birchall (Taylor 79), Knott (Myrie-Williams 78)Port Vale:

Subs not used: Yates, Shuker, Griffith, Hugill

Charles BreakspearReferee:

2,912 (224 away)Attendance:

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