MATCH REPORT: STEVENAGE 2, LUTON 1
A last gasp winner from Matt Godden handed Stevenage a 2-1 win against Luton Town in a dramatic and highly entertaining afternoon at The Lamex Stadium.
Cameron McGeehan’s deflected shot gave the Hatters a half-time lead but Boro never gave up, equalising eight minutes into the second half through Connor Hunte and hitting the woodwork through Ben Kennedy and Fraser Franks before Godden’s composed finish on the counter spark wild scenes of celebration among the home faithful.
Darren Sarll made three changes from the midweek defeat at Leyton Orient with Dean Wells, Connor Hunte and Jake Hyde coming in for Andrew Fox, Ben Kennedy and Tom Conlon, all of whom were named among the subs.
Both sides went close in the opening minutes when Matty Godden was just beaten to the ball by Walton and then a Jake Gray cross went just over Danny Hylton’s head. It was to set the tone for an end-to-end encounter in front of a lively crowd.
Fraser Franks and Charlie Lee saw headers off-target for Boro before Luton took the lead in rather fortuitous circumstances on 14 minutes.
Cameron McGeehan picked up possession out wide and was allowed to progress up the right flank, cut inside and hit a shot which took a big deflection and bounced past a wrong-footed Jones.
Boro pushed forward looking for a response but were too often thwarted by resolute defending with McAnuff winning a corner, Godden being crowded out inside the box and then Tonge seeing a shot blocked.
Instead it was Luton who perhaps should have extended their lead before the break with two golden chances missed by Danny Hylton. The first saw the striker fire just wide from 18 yards and the second saw the ex-Oxford man fail to finish off a slick counter-attack when he curled wide of Jones’ far post.
Tom Pett came on for McAnuff at the break and it took just nine minutes for the winger to have an impact. Good work down the right saw him exchange passes with Godden whose great cross was headed home at the back post by Wolves loanee Connor Hunte.
It sparked a hugely entertaining final third of the game, with one particularly frantic spell on 65 minutes seeing chances at both ends. Luton survived a scramble inside their own area before countering, with Stephen O’Donnell bursting into the Boro box and seeing a cross-cum-shot hit the bar. Only a wonderful sliding block from a Boro defender then denied McGeehan a tap-in.
Straight from that chance Stevenage broke immediately again but sub Ben Kennedy was scythed down by Olly Lee, earning the midfielder a caution. More danger was to come for the visitors as they failed to clear the resulting free-kick and Charlie Lee went close with an ambitious overhead kick.
Both sides were giving it everything but Boro were putting their bodies on the line, quite literally in Dean Wells' case as he found himself lying on the ball yards away from his own goal after blocking another goalmouth scramble, before Jamie Jones pounced to gather.
Urged on by manager Nathan Jones on the touchline, the Hatters kept up the pressure as the game entered its final 10 minutes with Jones turning fierce efforts from Danny Hylton and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu behind. However the end-to-end nature of the game continued with Pett creating space at the other end and curling just wide.
That was just a taster of what was to come in the final few minutes though.
With four minutes remaining Boro fans were almost on their feet in celebration as brilliant link-up play between sub Tom Conlon and Godden nearly created a chance for the substitute but he was crowded out.
A minute later Ben Kennedy collected a Pett cross, turned and rattled the woodwork with the ball bouncing down off the bar and post and onto the line. Home fans appealed to the assistant referee, but nothing was given.
An injury to Tom Conlon right on 90 minutes left Boro with 10 men for the five minutes of added time but still the chances came, when a long free-kick by Charlie Lee was met by Franks but the defender’s header bounced off the top of the bar
Somehow the game continued at its frenetic pace with Potts heading straight at Jones and Olly Lee hitting the crossbar as Luton looked to win it late on. Instead it was Stevenage who struck deep into added time – on the counter, fittingly - to snatch all three points.
In a game which left players and fans exhausted alike, it was two moments of real composure that won Boro the game. Tom Pett broke forward from that Hatters attack, but rather than go for goal himself, had the presence of mind to look up and lay the ball into the path of Matty Godden whose cool finish into the far corner sparked wild scenes of celebration at The Lamex among players, management and fans.
A win really kick-starts Stevenage’s league campaign and gives Darren Sarll’s men a huge confidence boost ahead of Tuesday night’s EFL Cup game against Stoke City. Tickets for that game range from £5-£22 can be purchased at www.borotickets.co.uk, in the club shop or on the turnstiles on the night.
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Wilkinson, Wells, Franks, McAnuff (Pett 46), Tonge, Lee, Hunte (Conlon 76), Hyde (Kennedy 58), Godden
Subs not used: Day, Fox, Liburd, Gorman
Luton Town: Walton, O’Donnell, Cuthbert, Rea, Potts, Gray (Ruddock Mpanzu 60), Lee, McGeehan (McQuoid 90), Cook, Hylton, Marriott (Vassell 68)
Subs not used: King, Smith, Vassell, McQuoid, Justin, Famewo
Referee: Andy Haines
Attendance: 3,517 (1674 away)