Stevenage made it eight games unbeaten with an excellent yet goalless display in a 0-0 draw at Exeter City this evening.
Boro were impressive throughout and restricted the Grecians to just a handful of chances, with Chris Day a virtual spectator throughout. Opposite number James Hamon was much the busier ‘keeper, making a number of key saves throughout the game as Stevenage carved out a number of opportunities to grab all three points.
Graham Westley made just the one change from the side that picked up a point at Cambridge on Saturday with new loan signing Kevin Lisbie – who has signed on a month’s loan from Leyton Orient – starting in place of Ben Kennedy, who dropped to the bench.
The veteran striker nearly got off to a dream start with a goal inside 90 seconds, but the loanee saw his header towards goal cleared. Lee’s follow-up shot bounced into the ground and was deflected behind for an early corner. It set the tone for a strong first half display from the visitors who kept the ball comfortably throughout and constantly looked to attack in the final third.
Exeter were restricted to just the odd opportunity in the opening exchanges with Alex Nicholls firing just wide on nine minutes after City worked a ball into the box and Tom Nichols blazed high and wide minutes later.
Stevenage took their time and regularly broke up City’s slick passing, leaving opportunities to break on the counter. With 21 minutes on the clock good control by Lisbie gave Parrett the chance to drive forward and play in Pett, but the winger’s shot deflected kindly for Hamon and the danger was gone.
A minute later Hamon was called into action once more. Lee drove forward on the counter and Martin won a corner and when Wells leapt highest to meet Keane’s delivery it looked a certain goal – his header was straight at the ‘keeper however.
Ryan Harley cleared Day’s bar with a 26th minute free-kick in a rare opportunity for the Grecians but Boro just kept up the pressure and created more good opportunities to score. They were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty on the half hour when Harley challenged Keane clumsily inside the box but referee Johnson waved away Boro appears.
Keane forced Hamon into a low save after Stevenage blocked a Harley clearance, Wells saw another header from the resulting corner fly just wide before the visitors carved out yet another chance leading upto half-time.
Picking up the ball in the middle of the park, Parrett pinged the pass of the half out to Pett on the far touchline. Showing expert control the young winger ran at his man and whipped in a beautiful cross for Lisbie, whose diving header was cleared off the line by Moore-Tayor. For all their dominance, Stevenage went in level at the interval.
Exeter came out determined at the start of the second half and forced an early corner. Boro cleared the delivery with ease and were then relieved to see a turn and shot from Clinton Morrison fly just wide of Day’s far post, before the visitors
Tom Pett in particular was looking supremely confident and some brilliant footwork on the near touchline saw him turn two defenders inside out before winning a throw. That confidence was shared by his team mates and from a cheeky free-kick routine Boro nearly took the Grecians by surprise, but after initially pretending to be confused by the movement of his colleagues, Dave Martin’s real free-kick was just cut out.
Exeter made a double sub just past the hour and it seemed to inject lift into the home attack, with Boro – Dean Wells and Bira Dembele in particular – doing well defensively to thwart the Grecians. Moore-Taylor saw a header fly over Day’s bar from one rare corner with sub Dave Wheeler seeing his own header from a Sercombe cross bounce off the top of the bar.
With 18 minutes Lisbie won Stevenage a corner from which the visitors should really have taken the lead. Kennedy’s delivery was perfect for Wells to meet the ball with a free header but it flew agonisingly wide of the far post.
The centre-back, fresh from his goal at Cambridge, seemed on a one-man mission to hit the back of the net and was soon at it again, smashing towards goal when Keane’s 75th minute free-kick fell kindly for him, only for a Grecian body to block behind.
If Saturday’s draw saw Boro getting deeper in the latter stages, they were doing quite the opposite here and continued to create some golden chances in the last 10 minutes. From a good run and cross by Parrett, sub Danny Johnson saw a header go wide, Lisbie forced Hamon to parry a header from a beautiful Andrade cross and then the resulting ball was hacked behind for a corner. Even from that set piece Okimo set his sights from the edge of the box but his whipped effort was scrambled behind. This was excellent pressure and still the visitors came forward. A driving run from Andrade saw the winger hauled down, with Kennedy’s subsequent free-kick touched over by Hamon.
Dave Wheeler sent a near-post header wide in a rare final chance for the Grecians and Kennedy saw a late free-kick somehow miss everyone, as the game finished goalless.
A point on the road was the least Stevenage deserved from this game and with that result lifting Boro into the playoffs on the back of an eight match unbeaten run, their destiny is very much in their own hands moving into the final nine games. Dagenham are the next to visit The Lamex Stadium on Saturday and tickets can be found here.
Exeter: Hamon, Ribeiro, Sercombe, Oakley, Davies, Moore-Taylor, Nichols (Wheeler 61), Nicholls (Holmes 61), Riley-Lowe, Harley, Morrison
Subs not used: Pym, Bennett, Keohane, Cummins, McReady
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Wells, Dembele, Okimo, Pett (Andrade 81), Parrett, Keane, Martin (Kennedy 69), Lee (Johnson 73), Lisbie
Subs not used: Beasant, Ashton, Bond, Conlon
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Attendance: 3,149 (54 away)