A Chris Whelpdale hat-trick inspired Stevenage to a 4-3 win over Morecambe in a huge entertaining game at The Lamex Stadium this afternoon.
First half goals from Dean Wells and Whelpdale, either side of a volley from Kevin Ellison, put Boro 2-1 up at the break but it could have been 4-1, had both Ben Kennedy and Whelpdale not seen penalties turned away. Two further strikes from Whelpdale gave the winger his hat-trick and the hosts a comfortable advantage, but Morecambe showed why they are one of the league’s best entertainers this season with two late strikes – including a successful penalty – to keep Boro sweating.
Stevenage were on the front foot from the off in this one and put Morecambe under pressure immediately. Within 60 seconds Tom Pett drove into the area and laid the ball off to Matt but the big striker was crowded out.
With 5 minutes on the clock Boro’s front duo combined again, with Matt laying the ball off for Pett who saw his effort turned behind by Roche. The Morecambe ‘keeper didn’t follow up that good save particularly well, failing to get much on Tonge’s outswinging corner, leaving Dean Wells to blast Boro home with a fierce drive.
The Morecambe defence seemed at sixes and sevens and only a deflection denied Fraser Franks’ header from putting Boro further ahead.
From nowhere Morecambe equalised on 12 minutes. The referee played an advantage from a Boro offside and the visitors poured forward. Franks did well to hold off Shaun Miller but veteran Kevin Ellison smashed home at the second chance with a superb curling effort to draw things level.
Ben Kennedy began the game on the left but just past the quarter of an hour mark, his run from the right into the box saw the Northern Irishman clipped to win Stevenage a penalty. Up stepped Kennedy but Roche guessed correctly, palming the ball away.
Fortunately it wasn’t long until Boro restored their lead. Tonge found Whelpdale out wide and the winger cut inside before firing home via a slight deflection to leave Stevenage 2-1 up on 20 minutes.
The home side were looking good, keeping some great possession as the half went on with Tonge and Cox looking particularly neat and tidy in the middle.
Whelpdale headed wide under pressure from a 36th minute Henry cross and Pett saw a shot deflect wide as Boro retained control of the game and ramped up the pressure on the Shrimps.
Miller fired a dipping effort straight at Day from distance in a rare chance for the visitors until yet more brilliant play by Stevenage saw them win their second penalty in first half injury time. Much of the credit goes to Whelpdale for keeping the ball in on the touchline and firing in a cross, with Pett taking a touch and showing neat footwork to earn a foul challenge. With Kennedy looking interested in redemption, Whelpdale took charge but saw his tame effort again kept out by Roche.
Somehow it was only 2-1 at the break when it really should have been 4-1.
Morecambe made a double-sub at the break and within two minutes created a good opportunity to equalise. Tom Barkhuizen ran at goal and fired in a low effort which Day turned wide, only for the ref to hand Boro a goal-kick in a carbon copy of a similar incident at Bristol Rovers just days earlier.
Instead it was Stevenage who furthered their advantage moments later. Man of the moment Whelpdale cut inside again and unleashed another curler with his left-foot into the far corner.
Paul Mullin fired over as Morecambe threatened to get back into the game on 57 minutes but cometh the hour, cometh the man as Whelpdale bagged the matchball. Powering through the middle of the pitch, the winger was closed down but found Kennedy out wide. The cross came in, the defence failed to clear and there was Whelpdale at the back post to tap home for 4-1 to register his seventh goal in nine games.
Charlie Lee and Mark Hughes replaced Whelpdale and Fraser Franks as the half progressed and the game fell slightly flat for a few minutes. However when Paul Mullin scored from the spot, after an infringement given against Hughes, it lead to a few nervous moments in the final 10 minutes.
That said Stevenage had chances to increase their lead further with Kennedy seeing a header deflect wide and Hughes, another player seeking redemption, seeing a header cleared off the line against his former side.
Kevin Ellison smashed home a late volley to make the score look much more respectable and leave the East Terrace applauding the veteran front man, with whom they’d enjoyed a light-hearted dual with all afternoon.
It proved, however, to be the final kick of the game as Boro clinched back-to-back wins for the first time this season to end November unbeaten and leave spirits high ahead of next week’s FA Cup tie at Yeovil.
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Franks (Hughes 75), Wells, Ogilvie, Cox, Tonge, Whelpdale (Lee 79), Pett, Kennedy, Matt
Subs not used: Crowe, McCombe, Gorman, Conlon, Gnanduillet
Morecambe: Roche, Beeley, Edwards, Barkhuizen, Molyneux (Mullin 46), Ellison, Goodall (Murphy 46), Wildig, Miller (Forrester 73), Wilson, Parrish
Subs not used: Thompson, Dugdale, Devitt, Doyle
Referee: Lee Collins
Attendance: 2,415 (66 away)