Stevenage lost to the odd goal in seven during a topsy-turvy defeat to Doncaster Rovers this afternoon.
A poor first half performance saw Boro 3-0 down thanks to goals from Butler, Mandeville and Blair in an 11 minute period. However the hosts showed some fight after the break with sub Tom Pett pulling one back on the hour and Fraser Franks firing home spectacularly, only for John Marquis to make it 4-2 with a header with 17 minutes to go. Rowan Liburd’s 89th minute finish set up a tense final few moments and Boro threw everything at it, but just couldn’t find an equaliser.
Darren Sarll made three enforced changes to his side after the win at Portsmouth. Luke Wilkinson (suspension), Matt Godden and Kgosi Ntlhe (both injured) missed out and were replaced by Charlie Lee, Dean Wells and Harry McKirdy. Jack King moved back to partner Wells in the centre of defence with Fraser Franks moving to left-back. McKirdy partnered Ben Kennedy up top.
In truth for the opening 25 minutes you wouldn’t have thought a seven-goal thriller was on the cards as both sides pushed forward but defences were on top. Ben Kennedy and Harry McKirdy were looking lively up front for Boro but were well marshalled, whilst King and Wells were dealing with John Marquis.
Doncaster opened the scoring on 27 minutes in disappointing fashion from a home perspective. A free-kick was swung in from 25 yards and Andy Butler powered his header home, with Jones unable to keep the ball out.
Ben Kennedy weaved his way through the visiting defence and tried to repeat his goals against Yeovil with a curling effort, but fired straight at Marosi as Boro looked for an immediate reply moments later.
Buoyed by that goal lead, Rovers were looking the more threatening and were able to double their advantage on 34 minutes when Liam Mandeville fired home through a crowded area.
Two minutes later Charlie Lee saw a powerful header turned onto the post and away by Marosi as Boro were close to halving the deficit, but instead Darren Sarll’s men found themselves 3-0 down seven minutes before the break, through a fine effort from distance from Matty Blair.
Stevenage made a double-sub at half-time, replacing Dale Gorman and Charlie Lee with Tom Pett and Michael Tonge and both were to have an influential 45 minutes.
If Doncaster controlled the 15 minutes before the break, Boro ran the show in the opening quarter of an hour after it with Schumacher twice going close, Pett combining well with Franks down the left before cutting inside and firing at Marosi and then Dean Wells sidefooting a volley onto the roof of the net.
Finally Boro got the goal their endeavour deserved and a fine goal on the counter it was too. Cowans, Kennedy and Pett were all involved and it was the latter who slotted home on his birthday for 3-1.
Doncaster missed guilt-edged chances to extend their lead when a dangerous cross across the six-yard box evaded everyone, when it looked a certain goal was coming, and then Marquis dragged a shot wide from the angle.
Instead it was Stevenage who pulled another goal back and in some style with 19 minutes remaining. Boro pushed forward and when the ball fell to Michael Tonge, he spotted the unlikely figure of Fraser Franks lurking on the edge of the box. A perfect ball by Tonge saw Fraser control beautifully before unleashing a rocket on the half-volley over Marosi and into the back of the net. 3-2
The East Terrace sensed a comeback but Doncaster hit back from another free-kick – Marquis heading home another free-kick two minutes later which Jones was close to keeping out.
Boro continued to push forward and when Rowan Liburd scored from close-range to make it 4-3, three-quarters of the stadium were on their feet, sensing an epic comeback
Four minutes of injury time were signalled and Boro threw absolutely everything forward, with Tom Pett curling centimetres past the far post as the opportunity for an excellent equaliser came and went.
Doncaster move to the top of the table with that win but will know they’ve been in a game after that second half showing from their hosts. Stevenage, meanwhile, have to regroup ahead of Tuesday when they travel to Newport County in their second game in-hand.
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, King, Wells, Franks, Gorman (Pett 46), Lee (Tonge 46), Schumacher (Liburd 69), Cowans, Kennedy, McKirdy
Subs not used: Day, Kerr, Slater, Wilmot
Doncaster: Marosi, Alcock, Baudry, Marquis, Rowe, Houghton, Blair, Mandeville (Keegan 76), Mason, Coppinger (Williams 84)
Subs not used: Jones, Calder, Wright, Beestin, Evina
Referee: Lee Collins
Attendance: 2,705 (542 away)