Injury ravaged Stevenage put in a superb away performance to win 3-1 at Hartlepool United this afternoon in Sky Bet League 2.
Despite five changes alone from Tuesday's draw with Bury, Graham Westley's men were on top for much of the game and deservedly went ahead through a 37th minute strike from debutant Dave Martin. Scott Fenwick equalised three minutes after the break but Boro struck again immediately, with two Ben Kennedy goals - his first in professional football - securing a big three points on the road.
Stevenage made five changes from the goalless draw against Bury with Bira Dembele, Ben Kennedy and Roarie Deacon handed starts, Dean Parrett returning from injury and new signing Dave Martin given a first start after signing on a free transfer. Bond and Deacon occupied the full-back positions in place of the injured Henry and Charles and there was a surprise place on the bench for Tom Pett.
Although bottom of the Football League, Hartlepool had recorded three home wins on the bounce and looked lively in the opening exchanges, particularly on the counter.
Marvin Morgan and Marlon Harewood were making their presence known up top, but were well marshalled by Wells and Dembele with Compton and Franks also pushing forward on the flanks, testing Stevenage’s makeshift defence
Aaron Tshibola had a crack from 25 yards and Parrett saw a shot from the edge of the box saved by Flinders as the two teams traded chances around the quarter hour mark, before Boro began to slowly assert some dominance.
That pressure nearly led to a goal when the visitors were awarded a free-kick on 22 minutes. When Martin’s left-footed delivery took a touch off the first defender and fell kindly to Wells it looked for all the world like the defender would fire home, only for his volley to slice well wide of Flinders’ post.
Four minutes later a diagonal ball towards the back post found Martin. He hooked the ball back for Kennedy by the youngster couldn’t quite wrap his foot around it and fired just wide.
Still Boro remained on top and when Parrett picked up possession in midfield and played Kennedy through it appeared a good chance, but the second year scholar ran out of room as he looked to go around Flinders. He wasn’t to be denied though later in the game.
Beardsley was next to have a sight on goal, blazing over inside the box after Boro had recycled an attack and it looked like being another of those days until the 37th minute when they deservedly took the lead. It was temporary right-back Bond with the assist - his diagonal cross was missed by Duckworth allowing Martin to take a touch and blast home for a debut goal. It was nothing less than the visitors deserved after knocking on the door for some time.
1-0 so nearly became 2-0 moments later after Stevenage broke on the counter. It was Martin leading the breakaway, finding Kennedy in space on the left and his beauty of a cross was met by the onrushing Parrett who steered his header just wide from 12 yards.
A previously boisterous home support was getting increasingly frustrated with Wells and Dembele dominating their strikers and the once lively home wingers being starved of any meaningful service.
A late free-kick for Pools posed Boro some questions defensively but they cleared their lines with ease and went into the break a goal to the good.
Straight from the kick-off Boro pushed forward and when a stray pass found Whelpdale, the winger ignored options left and right to advance and have a pop at goal, only to fire well over.
However three minutes into the half it was Hartlepool who pulled level when good approach play found Scott Fenwick in the box and he wrong-footed Wells before curling home a low shot.
Parity wasn’t restored for long though as with 51 minutes on the clock Boro were ahead once more. It was a goal made and scored by Kennedy, who chased a long throw from Whelpdale and won a corner. Whilst Martin’s initial delivery was cleared, his second cross found the youngster whose bullet header found the back of the net for his first professional goal.
The home crowd had found their voice again, urging Pools on but the visitors stood firm and once again began to dominate the game.
Just past the hour Parrett saw one shot from the edge of the box blocked and a curling effort from a tight angle fly just wide, as Boro continued to create chances however they weren’t to be denied for long as Kennedy struck his second on 65 minutes. After being played through the youngster kept his head up and kept his cool, and although Flinders got something to his shot the ball looped up and spun away from the covering defender to end in the back of the net for 3-1.
That goal pretty much killed the hosts who pushed forward occasionally in the closing stages but were constantly thwarted by a Stevenage side who expertly saw out the rest of the game.
Even with a two goal lead Graham Westley’s men continued to dominate and create chances. An 83rd minute Walton free-kick just evaded the on-rushing Dembele from cloe range, sub Andrade skipped past two on the byline but saw his low 87th minute cross miss everyone and fellow sub Lee then prodded weakly at Flinders on the counter.
Three goals and three points is an excellent return for what looked a tricky tie on paper, particularly with Boro’s injury woes. A first win in four will hopefully now act as a springboard as promotion chasers Southend and Wycombe await in the coming weeks. Ticket news for the Southend game can be found here.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Duckworth, Harrison, Mirfin, Austin, Franks, Woods, Tshibola, Compton, Harewood (Fenwick 46), Morgan (J.Jones 75)
Subs not used: Maxted, Walker, Featherstone, Richards, D.Jones
Stevenage: Day, Bond, Dembele, Wells, Deacon, Whelpdale, Walton, Parrett (Lee 77), Martin (Andrade 72), Kennedy (D.Johnson 89), Beardsley
Subs not used: Beasant, Zola, R.Johnson, Pett
Referee: S Martin
Attendance: 3,388 (72 away)