Stevenage struck five past Cheltenham Town in an emphatic 5-1 win at The Lamex Stadium this afternoon.
Two goals up in seven minutes through Chris Beardsley and Charlie Lee put Boro in the driving seat and when Beardsley slotted home his third just past the half hour the game looked won. Two Lee Barnard strikes, either side of a consolation for Byron Harrison, then sealed the win in an entertaining afternoon for Graham Westley’s men.
Stevenage set the tone early and even before the opening goal on five minutes Ronnie Henry had fizzed a dangerous cross across the box within 90 seconds and David McAllister saw a looping header tipped over the bar by Trevor Carson.
It was from the resulting corner that Boro took the lead. Whilst Walton’s initial delivery was cleared, the ball found its way back out to the midfielder whose excellent first-time cross was perfect for Barnard to run onto and Beardsley to tuck home. 1-0.
Two minutes later a great cross from Deacon took a nick off a Robins defender and looked to be sneaking into the top corner, only for Carson to turn the ball behind. The Robins’ respite was temporary however as the resulting corner was cleared only as far as Lee, who curled a beauty into the far corner to double Boro’s advantage with just 7 minutes on the clock.
Two goals to the good Stevenage were dominant and were constantly probing for more. It took until the 24th minute for the shell-shocked Cheltenham to register their first chance with Byron Harrison nodding a rare chance wide, but even then it was the hosts continuing to push forward.
Barnard saw the ball bounce kindly for the visiting defence in another moment of panic on 29 minutes and Lee was blocked off well after Walton had spotted the midfielder’s lung-burst charge into the box as Boro kept up the pressure. That momentum was rewarded on 33 minutes when a long ball forward was neatly headed on by Lee for the alert Beardsley to tuck home his second and Boro’s third.
Richards flashed a shot wide and Harrison nodded a dangerous cross the wrong side of the post as the Robins continued to plug away, but even then they could have fallen further behind when Barnard just failed to diver a Deacon shot past Carson.
The second half began with Boro on top again. With one goal to his name already Lee went agonisingly close to a second on 48 minutes, when neat footwork won him some space and he unleashed a thunderbolt. It beat Carson all ends up but cannoned back off the bar and away. Inches away from a spectacular strike.
On the hour Charlie Adams replaced the battered and bruised Roarie Deacon – who departed to a standing ovation – and was immediately into the action. Good work by Barnard and Beardsley set the winger free down the right flank and he cut inside and shot, only to be denied by a fine one-handed stop by Carson.
The brilliant Beardsley departed the field 10 minutes later to another standing ovation after his best performance yet, full of running, chasing, flicking and of course finishing. In his place there was a welcome return for Adam Marriott, missing through injury since the goalless draw at Oxford back in September.
Whilst having plenty of troubles at the back, Cheltenham still looked bright going forward in spells and it took a brilliant low save from Day to thwart a boot from diverting Taylor’s shot in.
With 17 minutes Lee Barnard make it 4-0, with much credit due to Marriot. The sub did superbly to hold the ball in the corner, twist and turn his defender inside out before whipping in a cross. The ball fell nicely for Adams who used his body well to create space for a shot, which was tucked home at the back post by the Southend loanee.
After such a strong defensive performance the back four may be disappointed not to get the clean sheet, after Harrison burst through to find the back of the net minutes later with a fine low finish.
Barnard saw a fierce volley blocked at the back post as Boro looked to restore their four goal advantage immediately but it wasn’t long until the Southend loanee found the back of the net again. His second came with just nine minutes remaining when the hardworking Marriott closed down a Carson clearance, checked back and laid the ball back for Barnard to show great composure before slotting home.
Marriott could have put the icing on the cake with a late sixth, but after evading his defender and racing into the box he was let down by a heavy touch, as the Lamex continued to bounce in celebration.
An emphatic and entertaining win in front of your own fans – it doesn’t get much better than that. Graham Westley’s men will now hope to take that form into Thursday’s televised FA Cup first round replay at Maidstone.
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Wells, Charles, Okimo, Deacon (Adams 60), Walton (Conlon 76), McAllister, Lee, Beardsley (Marriott 69), Barnard
Subs not used: Beasant, Dembele, Ashton, Pett
Cheltenham: Carson, Vaughan, Brown, Elliott (Kotwica 38), Richards, Harrison, Gornell (Hanks 82), Black, Bowen, Taylor, De Vita (Marquis 60)
Subs not used: Gould, Haworth, Deaman, Hanks, Sterling-James