Stevenage are out of this season’s Capital One Cup after a narrow 2-1 defeat at Championship side Ipswich Town this evening.
A much improved Boro enjoyed the best of the first half and played some lovely football, deservedly going ahead through Christophe Berra’s own goal.
The second half saw Ipswich dominate much of the play and create numerous chances before equalising through Josh Yorwerth and then going ahead through Jay Tabb. Eight minutes from time Stevenage were awarded a penalty when Dean Parrett was fouled inside the area after an amazing run, only for Mr Graham to extraordinarily reverse his decision.
Both sides had chances in the closing stages but Ipswich saw the game out to progress.
Teddy Sheringham made three changes from the weekend defeat to Notts County with Mark Hughes, Brett Williams and Tom Conlon dropping to the bench. In came Jamie McCombe for his debut alongside Dean Wells; Dave McAllister joined Steve Schumacher and Dean Parrett in midfield; and Tom Pett returned to the flanks.
Meanwhile Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy had made the unusual step of naming his starting XI 24 hours before kick-off, making 10 changes from their opening Championship game at Brentford. Only skipper Luke Chambers remained from that 2-2 draw at Griffin Park.
Dipo Akinyemi and Dean Parrett got the action underway and when a long Charlie Lee throw had the defenders working inside the opening minute, it was to set the tone for an excellent first half display from the visitors.
There were encouraging signs from the start with Parrett looking at home in a central attacking midfield role, with Schumacher and McAllister providing the protection in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
An eighth minute cross from Toure was fired wide first-time by Pittman in what would prove a rare chance for Ipswich, before Stevenage carved out a number of decent opportunities going forward themselves.
With 11 minutes on the clock good work by Akinyemi saw the youngster lay the ball off for Charlie Lee inside the area. The midfielder saw his effort with the outside of the boot deflect wide and when the subsequent corner eventually fell to Schumacher 25 yards out, he could only fire wide of the target.
The home crowd tried to lift the atmosphere whenever Town ventured over the half-way line but instead it was the Boro faithful making all the noise as their team enjoyed the best of the opening half. “You’re only here for the Boro” sang the visiting fans, clearly enjoying their evening out.
Still the chances came. A great through-ball for Okimo on 20 minutes saw the left-back’s first time cross turned towards goal by Parrett, only for a deflection to take the ball behind for a corner. When that set piece was flicked on, a diving header by Franks somehow deflected wide for another corner.
Dipo Akinyemi was causing Ipswich’s defence all kinds of problems and just before the half hour burst onto a ball over the top, turned Yorwerth inside out and played the ball across into space, only for Dave McAllister to blaze wide first time.
A rare McCombe error nearly let Ipswich in at one end but within seconds Stevenage had a deserved lead. Jonathan Douglas was dispossessed in midfield and Akinyemi, breaking at speed, lead the counter into the box. He laid the ball off the Parrett, who despite seeing his initial shot saved watched as the ball flew into the back of the net off the unfortunate Christophe Berra.
Stung into life, Ipswich spent the remaining 15 minutes of the half peppering the Boro box and carved out a number of golden chances to equalise. Firstly, superb control and a pinpoint pass by McGoldrick set-up Pittman inside the box but his shot flew wide of the far post.
Then another good run, this time from Kenlock, found Tabb onside inside the box but he too fired wide, via a deflection.
Stevenage saw out two minutes of injury time to take a 1-0 lead into the break.
The start of the second half saw a double sub for Stevenage with McAllister and Akinyemi replaced by Brett Williams and Dale Gorman, the latter for his professional debut.
The Championship hosts continued the second half where they had left off in the first, showing more attacking intent and looking for that equaliser. Young defender Josh Yorweth blazed wildly over on 52 minutes when his initial header from a corner fell back to him. Two minutes later he made no mistake as he powered home a free header from a corner, awarded after Wells had come in with a crucial challenge following more trickery by Jay Tabb.
Now level, Ipswich were putting on real pressure now and when Kenlock whipped in another cross on the hour, Pittman was inches away from meeting it.
Chris Day was called into action minutes later, palming away a header Pittman did connect with and within moments was again saving Boro, thwarting the lively McGoldrick from point blank range.
A rare attack for Stevenage on 68 minutes saw lovely combination play between Gorman, Pett and Schumacher and a pass out to Lee. Charlie looked up and swept in a cross for Williams but the sub couldn’t get over his header and the ball flew over.
Fraser fired into the side netting and Gorman tried his luck from 40 yards as the teams traded chances before Luke Chambers should have put Ipswich ahead with another free header from a floated cross, only to see the ball drop wide.
The home fans didn’t have to wait long to go ahead, however, as with 15 minutes remaining McGoldrick burst through, held off his defender and slipped the ball across for Tabb to simply tap home into an unguarded net with Day stranded. On the balance of play in the second half it was a deserved lead.
However Stevenage kept their heads up and continued with their passing game, looking to catch their hosts out with late pressure on their goal. What seemed like a golden chance was given to them on 82 minutes when a mazy run by Parrett saw the marauding midfielder clipped in the box by Berra and the referee awarding a penalty. With Williams ready to take the spot-kick Mr Graham, following consultation with his linesman, sensationally reversed his decision and awarded a drop-ball just inside the area. Cue confusion in the press box, howls of derision from the away fans and cheers from the home faithful.
Day saved twice more from McGoldrick in the closing stages, as Boro refused to lie down but ultimately they were just edged out on the night.
Cup elimination by the odd goal in three away at a good Championship outfit is by no means embarrassing and on this showing there are many encouraging signs for Stevenage fans to take from the game as league action resumes on Saturday away at Newport County.
Ipswich: Gerken, Chambers, Yorwerth, Berra, Kenlock (Smith 77), Toure (Fraser 46), Coke, Douglas, Tabb, Pitman, McGoldrick
Subs not used: Bialkowski, Murphy, Sears, McDonnell, Benyu
Stevenage: Day, Franks, McCombe, Wells, Okimo, Schumacher (Conlon 78), McAllister (Gorman 46), Parrett, Lee, Pett, Akinyemi (Williams 46)
Subs not used: Jackson, Hughes, Casey, Johnson
Referee: Fred Graham
Attendance: 10,449 (388 away)