Stevenage survived late pressure to beat Newport County 2-1 at home this afternoon and take a step closer to assuring their Football League status.
A dominant first half performance saw goals from Jake Mulraney and Aaron O’Connor and with Boro so clearly on top, it looked like the floodgates might open for the hosts. However Newport vastly improved in the second half and set up a nervy finish with an 86th minute strike from Alex Rodman.
Darren Sarll made four changes from the side that lost at Notts County last weekend with Greg Luer, Tom Pett, Dean Parrett and Jake Mulraney all returning. Bradley Pritchard and Chris Whelpdale both missed out through injury and Tom Conlon and Dale Gorman dropped to the bench, where they were joined by the returning Charlie Lee.
Last weekend saw a rather timid attacking performance from Stevenage but today they were straight out of the blocks. In the opening minutes Dean Parrett saw a shot blocked and then nearly setup Dean Wells but it wasn’t long until the breakthrough came.
With eight minutes on the clock, the lively Tom Pett burst down the line and whipped in a cross which Jake Mulraney converted at the back post for 1-0.
That nearly became 2-0 on 17 minutes when Parrett’s corner was headed back across goal by Wilkinson but O’Connor’s overhead kick flew just over from close range.
Tommy O’Sullivan hit the wall with a free-kick and John Ayina attempted the spectacular with a scissor kick as the visitors briefly rallied, but soon enough Boro were back on top with their next chance falling to Mulraney on 23 minutes on the counter.
After a Newport attack broke down, Luer found Mulraney who fed Parrett, before getting the return ball, cutting inside and curling just wide of the far post.
Key to Boro’s first half performance was their strength down the right flank with Ronnie Henry and Tom Pett dominating possession and every pass, flick or header finding its target. Visiting full-back Ben Davis was having a torrid time but was soon replaced by Janoi Donacien as County shuffled their pack.
It wasn’t long though until Boro doubled their lead on 33 minutes. Dean Parrett rolled his man superbly in midfield and drove forward before cleverly feeding O’Connor who coolly netted his first Stevenage goal against his former employers.
Newport threw on top scorer Scott Boden for the second half and the visitors certainly posed a more attacking threat, with Mark Byrne also trying to burst forward from midfield. Twice the former Barnet man tried efforts with the outside of his foot, both of which were close but thankfully flew wide.
Stevenage really should have sewn the game up on the hour when Luer headed across goal but Mulraney could only fire over on the follow-up.
Newport sub Souleymane Coulibaly thought he’d headed his side back into the game with just 14 minutes remaining when he met a ball into the box, only for it to bounce just wide from close range. However four minutes from time they did halve the deficit, Alex Rodman arriving late in the box to smash home after a poor Boro clearance.
Six minutes of injury time came and went, thankfully without much incident, as Boro recorded a crucial win which virtually assures them of their Football League status for another season.
This win saw Boro leapfrog Newport in the table and relegate Dagenham, who lost 3-2 at Leyton Orient. York City, meanwhile, need the unlikely scenario of maximum points from their remaining games combined with zero points for Boro and a 15 goal shift in goal difference to catch Stevenage.
Bristol Rovers make their first trip to The Lamex Stadium this Tuesday evening where Boro know a point will secure their safety. Tickets are available at www.borotickets.co.uk.
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Wilkinson, Wells, Franks, Pett, Parrett, Tonge, Mulraney (Lee 72), O’Connor (Kennedy 70), Luer (Gorman 86)
Subs not used: Day, Keane, Okimo, Conlon
Newport County: Day, Holmes, Jones, Davis (Donacien 37), Elito, John-Lewis (Coulibaly 66), Hughes, Ayina, Rodman, O’Sullivan (Boden 46), Byrne
Subs not used: Green, Klukowski, Morgan, Patridge
Referee: Iain Williamson