Stevenage recovered from a 2-1 half-time deficit to pick up a point at home to Tranmere Rovers this afternoon.
Bira Dembele gave Boro the perfect start with a header after just two minutes, but goals from Jennison Myrie-Williams and Kayode Odejayi turned the game on its head. Both teams created chances in the second half but it was Boro, after sustained pressure on the Rovers goal, who equalised thanks to sub Charlie Lee’s close-range effort.
Graham Westley made three changes from the Burton starting XI with Chris Whelpdale, Jack Jebb and Ben Kennedy coming into the team and Ronnie Henry, Dean Parrett and Kevin Lisbie missing through injury. Whelpdale started at right-back, Jebb slotted into a midfield three with Walton and Keane while Kennedy went up top, supported by Pett and Andrade.
In his programme notes Westley spoke of a collective urgency and intensity among his squad and they got the perfect start inside three minutes. A lovely back-heel from Andrade saw Whelpdale advance down the flank and win a corner, from which Bira Dembele rose magnificently to beat Peter Brezovan to Kennedy’s delivery and nod into an empty net.
Michael Ihiekwe saw a header from a corner go straight at Day after 8 minutes, but that aside it was the hosts who remained on top in the opening exchanges. They nearly made it 2-0 on the quarter hour when Jebb took a quick-free kick to set Pett free, but the winger’s shot was parried by Brezovan and the danger cleared.
As he’d done at Burton on Monday, Andrade’s pace was scaring Tranmere and on 17 minutes he drew a foul out wide. Jebb’s free-kick fell to Dembele, whose deft touch created a chance for Kennedy but his cross/shot was gathered by Brezovan once more.
The game then entered a rather scrappy phase with neither team able to create too much in the final third. George Green curled an effort just wide of Day’s post on the 22 minute mark and both sides traded corners as the goal mouth action remained at a premium until, out of nowhere, Tranmere found themselves level in calamitous circumstances.
A long ball forward from Tranmere looked simple enough for Dembele, but a shout from Day saw the Frenchman duck out at the last second, only for Jennison Myrie-Williams to nip in, beat Day to the ball and walk it into an empty net.
That equaliser sparked Rovers into life and it was the visitors who spent the majority of the rest of the half camped inside the Boro half. Kayode Odejayi was becoming more of an influence up top and saw one effort blocked by Okimo, before the big striker turned the game on its head with goal in the minute of injury time, heading home from close range.
Chris Whelpdale moved up top for the start of the second hard with Keane moving to right-back, but neither team was able to get much going in the opening stages. Tranmere seemed content to sit back and hit Boro on the counter, with the hosts probing for their equaliser.
Tom Conlon and Charlie Lee were thrown on just past the hour and the latter went close to an immediate equaliser, cutting inside from the left but fizzing a shot just wide of the near post. It was to signal the start of a period of sustained pressure from the hosts with Pett firing at Brezovan from a narrow angle and then Lee again forcing the ‘keeper into a low save as Kennedy sprung a counter-attack with 15 minutes remaining.
Moments later Conlon whipped in a cross and Andrade headed straight at the ‘keeper as the equaliser continued to remain elusive, with Keane and Conlon both seeing yellow to prevent Tranmere hitting Boro on the counter themselves.
Tranmere’s defensive rearguard was finally ended 13 minutes from time when sub Roarie Deacon’s shot was deflected, leaving Lee to smash home from close range with Brezovan beaten. The atmosphere lifted once again and helped create a lively last 10 minutes in which the end-to-end action continued.
Max Power forced Day into a low saw with a 25-yard free-kick and Pett twisted his full-back inside out before floating his cross just over. The visitors then wasted a golden opportunity to seal the win when they countered a Stevenage free-kick but the lively George Green elected to shoot – just wide – when sub Iain Hume was waiting for a simple tap-in.
Favourable results elsewhere, including Luton’s last-gasp home defeat against Exeter, mean Boro move up to eighth in the table and now travel to Cheltenham on Easter Monday looking for a vital three points in the push for the playoffs.
Stevenage: Day, Whelpdale, Wells, Dembele, Okimo (Deacon 75), Jebb (Conlon 65), Walton (Lee 65), Keane, Andrade, Pett, Kennedy
Subs not used: Beasant, Ashton, Bond, Martin
Tranmere: Brezovan, Ridehalgh, Power, Ihiekwe, Odejayi, Green, Donacien, Tayor (Molyneux 65), Dugdale, Jennings, Myrie-Williams (Hume 79)
Subs not used: Fon-Williams, Holmes, Laird, Kirby, Donnelly
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Attendance: 3,344 (381 away)