Super-sub Ben Kennedy inspires comeback win for Stevenage
Stevenage came back from 2-1 down to beat high-flying Southend 4-2 in an entertaining game at The Lamex Stadium this afternoon.
Boro were a goal to the good at half-time thanks to a low effort from Roarie Deacon but Southend turned the game on its head with two goals in 10 second half minutes from Joe Pigott and Barry Corr. However Stevenage responded in style with sub Ben Kennedy at the heart of the comeback. Within five minutes of coming on as sub the 18-year old won a penalty, which Simon Walton converted, before then slotting home an 85th minute shot for 3-2 after showing neat footwork on the edge of the area. He even had time to turn provider, setting up Dean Parrett for a late fourth as Stevenage picked up an impressive three points.
Team news saw just the one change from Hartlepool with Charlie Lee returning to fitness to replace Kennedy, who dropped to the bench.
It was a lively but fairly even first half with Parrett drilling a third minute effort straight at Bentley for Stevenage and Ryan Leonard turning inside the box on the quarter hour but seeing his shot turned behind by a combination of a Day save and Wells block.
The visitors have been impressive on the road this season and looked comfortable on the ball, probing Boro’s backline but bar one through ball for Pigott, which saw Day come out for a block, the home defence stood firm with Wells and Dembele going on to have another strong game.
In a game that looked like needing either a real moment of quality or luck to break the deadlock, it was possibly the latter which saw Boro go ahead just on the half-hour. Roarie Deacon cut inside on his right-foot and curled a low cross in which evaded everyone and bounced into the far corner for 1-0.
Southend responded by continuing to push forward with Piggot making a great run into the box on 37 minutes but being crowded out, before Barry Corr got up well for a 44th minute Southend corner but his header flew over Day’s bar.
The hosts remained a goal to the good until four minutes after the break when Phil Brown’s men hit back in style. Dave Worrall was a constant threat out wide for the Blues and after skipping around two players it was his cross to the back post which was expertly volleyed in by Joe Pigott.
Buoyed by that equaliser the visitors had their tails up and were soon 2-1 up from the spot after 55 minutes. It was Simon Walton who was deemed to have fouled Worrall right on the touchline and up stepped Barry Corr to fire home low to put Southend in front.
Chris Whelpdale went close with a header before the introduction of Ben Kennedy on 66 minutes and Tom Pett just three minutes later sparked Boro into life and resulted in a thrilling finish.
Within six minutes Kennedy won a penalty after dribbling into the box and drawing the foul – Walton made amends for conceding the earlier penalty by slotting home from 12 yards for 2-2.
The Lamex atmosphere was buzzing and with Pett back making surging runs down the flank there was a real sense that Stevenage could go on and hit Southend again.
They were handed a let-off with 10 minutes remaining as sub Jake Cassidy turned superbly in the box but fired straight at Day with time on his hands and that was to prove the key moment as Graham Westley’s men struck twice more in a thrilling finish.
First it was Kennedy, latching onto a superb ball from sub Calvin Zola – who himself showed expert technique to pluck the ball out of the air - before taking on his man and showing great composure to slot home a superb individual goal.
Southend flooded forward with Coker curling a low shot agonisingly wide of Day’s far post, only for Stevenage to promptly counter in the closing seconds – Kennedy playing in the outstanding Dean Parrett who fired home to confirm the win and an extremely satisfying three points after an excellent team performance.
Not even a freak hail storm on the final whistle could dampen spirits around The Lamex Stadium as the home faithful filed out. Next up it’s a trip to Wycombe as Graham Westley’s men look to build on this recent encouraging form.
Stevenage: Day, Bond (Pett 71), Wells, Dembele, Deacon, Whelpdale, Walton, Parrett, Martin, Lee (Kennedy 67), Beardsley (Zola 82)
Subs not used: Beasant, D.Johnson, Conlon, Andrade
Southend: Bentley, White, Coker, Worrall, Timlin (Hurst 75), Corr (Cassidy 77), Bolger, Leonard, Deegan (Coulthirst 86), Barrett, Pigott
Subs not used: Smith, Atkinson, Payne, Binnon-Williams
Referee: G Eltringham