Stevenage Under-18s advanced into the second round of the FA Cup with a 3-0 win at Aveley this evening.
A close-range finish from Michael Cregan gave Boro the lead but the visitors had ‘keeper Billy Collins to thank for saving an Aveley penalty just before the break. Louis Yamfam’s dismissal for two yellow cards seven minutes into the second half threatened to derail Stevenage but instead Robbie O’Keefe’s youngsters controlled the rest of the game in impressive style, sealing victory with further goals from Cregan and Nathan Kerr.
Stevenage began the game brightly with some tidy possession and early flurry of corners and free-kicks, but took time to get used to the bobbly Aveley pitch.
Just past the quarter hour mark Louis Yamfam saw a central free-kick hit the wall, whilst up the other end Matt Smyth had to watch carefully to put in a perfectly timed tackle to prevent a nippy Aveley striker from getting a shot off.
After becoming accustomed to the pitch the chances soon began to come for Stevenage, with Cregan flicking over the bar after excellent work by Under-16 Andronicos Georgiou on 24 minutes and both Louis Yamfam and Kerr shooting straight at the ‘keeper, in front of watching first-team manager Teddy Sheringham.
With eight minutes of the half remaining the men in red and white finally broke the deadlock when Cregan finished from close-range after more good work by Georgiou.
Aveley went close to equalising immediately when a cross flew across the Boro six yard box without getting a touch and then a minute from the break they were awarded a penalty for a tug in the box. Up stepped a confident striker but Billy Collins guessed correctly, diving low to his right to turn the ball away and retain Boro’s 1-0 lead.
Seven minutes into the second half Stevenage were dealt a huge blow when Yamfam received a second yellow, consigning the visitors to 10 men for the remaining 38 minutes. However rather than struggle, Boro seemed to improve with McKee, Brady and Guerfi controlling the middle of the park and Cregan and sub Jamie Gray immense up top.
Just before the hour Aveley went close with a shot that hit the side netting but moments later Boro struck again. A free-kick from the right was headed back across goal by Smyth and there was Cregan to fire home at the back post to double his own and his side’s lead.
With Cregan not giving the home defence a moment’s rest and Gray also showing some great touches, the pressure was continuing to mount on Aveley and the home ‘keeper made a superb save to deny McKee after the Northern Irish Under-19 international exchanged passes inside the box and let fly.
Aveley hit the post with a superb header and Gray fired wide after some trickery on the edge of the box, as chances came and went for both sides. However any thoughts of a comeback by the Essex side were gone when Boro scored a third with 16 minutes remaining – Nathan Kerr smashing home a free-kick from 18 yards to seal progress to round two where either Cambridge or Hayes & Yeading will be the opponents.
Stevenage: Collins, Slater, Smyth, Croud (O’Keefe 89), Kerr, Brady, Guerfi, McKee, Yamfam, Cregan (Mitchell 89), Andronicos (Gray 59)
Subs not used: Mewitt, Dowridge