Stevenage knocked out Championship side Ipswich Town out of the EFL Cup with a fine 1-0 victory at Portman Road this evening.
Ben Kennedy’s second half goal was the difference between the two sides but this was an excellent performance by Boro who combined great defending with some promising forward play to shock their more illustrious hosts.
Darren Sarll made three changes from the weekend defeat to Crewe with Dale Gorman replacing Michael Tonge in midfield and Ben Kennedy and Rowan Liburd slotting in up top in place of Matt Godden and Jake Hyde, both of whom were among the subs.
It was a solid start to the game for Stevenage who nearly opened up Ipswich inside a minute. Liburd showed good pace and power to latch onto an early ball, shimmying past his man and cutting the ball back towards Kennedy only for an interception to come in.
The first real chance came on 10 minutes when Boro caught Ipswich out with a quick free-kick. Tom Conlon received the ball out wide and whipped in a cross which Luke Wilkinson met but guided just wide.
Ipswich took a while to get going and went close on the quarter hour when Douglas ghosted into the box to get on the end of a cross, but his header lacked accuracy and went wide.
Boro were looking comfortable against their hosts, with Gorman and Lee combining nicely in midfield and both strikers looking lively up top. Just before the half hour they nearly carved out another chance when great control by Liburd saw the striker lay the ball off for Kennedy. He evaded one challenge but then snatched at his chance which bounced wide. Better was to come though for the Northern Irishman later in the game.
Freddie Sears and Kevin Bru both fired over as half chances came and went for Ipswich, with Jamie Jones relatively untested during the first half.
Instead it was Boro who continued to look more likely to score, with a Tom Conlon free-kick saved by Dean Gerken in the Town goal just before the break.
Ipswich threw on striker David McGoldrick for the start of the second half – itself credit to Boro’s work defensively in the first half - and immediately he was into the action, setting up Bru for a chance from 25 yards which he hit straight at Jones.
Stevenage though carried on where they’d left off, mopping up at the back and effectively probing the Ipswich defence, winning a number of free-kicks, from which they’d eventually break the deadlock on 53 minutes.
Tom Conlon saw another dipping effort parried behind by Gerken with Luke Wilkinson then seeing a header blocked behind from the resulting corner. Conlon’s second outswinging delivery looked to be cleared but only as far as Lee who recovered possession and shot, with the ball deflecting via a defender and the ‘keeper into the path of the gleeful Kennedy to sweep home for a deserved 1-0 lead.
From that point onwards McGoldrick seemingly went on a one-man mission to rescue the game, firing in a number of efforts that either flew wide, over or were kept out by some excellent goalkeeping from Jamie Jones.
It could even have got better for Stevenage who went close to doubling their advantage on 65 minutes. Rowan Liburd had linked up well with Kennedy all game, but he did brilliantly to turn his man on the halfway line and show incredible athleticism to take the ball into the box, only for Gerken to spread himself and keep it out. It would have been an outstanding solo goal and the 245 Boro fans showed their appreciation for the big man’s effort.
Ben Kennedy went close himself with 12 minutes remaining, curling over the bar but from that point it was all hands on deck as Ipswich pushed forward and laid siege to Boro’s defensive third of the field.
If Ipswich were expecting panic stations in the visiting defence, they would be sadly disappointed as Darren Sarll’s men remained calm and collected as they defended everything that came into their box with relative ease and showed excellent game management to see out the rest of the game and five minutes of added time.
Victory avenges last season’s 2-1 league cup defeat at Portman Road and sees Boro advance into tomorrow night’s Round 2 draw. That will be live on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports News HQ immediately after the conclusion of tomorrow night’s live game (10pm approx).
Ipswich Town: Gerken, Knudsen, Chambers, Smith, Digby, Bru (Bishop 69), Ward, Sears, Douglas, Dozzell (McGoldrick 46), Grant
Subs not used: Bialkowski, Berra, Skuse, Kenlock, Morris
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Wilkinson, Wells (Fox 60), Franks, Conlon (Tonge 87), Lee, Gorman, McAnuff, Liburd (Godden 71), Kennedy
Subs not used: Day, Pett, Hyde, Donnellan
Referee: Charles Breakspear
Attendance: 6,858 (245 away)