Harrison strikes and Boro keep a clean sheet in fine home victory
Stevenage picked up all three points with a fine 2-0 home win against Cambridge United this afternoon.
Byron Harrison gave Boro a half-time lead they never looked like losing with the hosts dominating large parts of the game and constantly probing for more. The second from a superb Connor Ogilvie assist looked to have come off a Cambridge defender with Harrison lurking, but it doubled the lead and made all three points safe for Stevenage.
Darren Sarll made four changes from the side that won 2-1 at Hartlepool in midweek. Fraser Franks came in for the injured Dean Wells, Michael Tonge replaced the ineligible Keith Keane, Tom Conlon came in for the injured Dean Parrett and Byron Harrison was handed a start on his second debut, with Aaron O’Connor dropping to the bench.
With a midweek win under their belts Stevenage started the game confidently and dominated the opening exchanges. The first real opportunity came on five minutes when Ryan Hedges picked up a loose ball and ran at the Cambridge defence, only for his through-ball for Byron Harrison to prove inaccurate.
Tom Conlon saw a dangerous looking free-kick from 20 yards strike the wall before Boro struck the opening goal on 17 minutes. As goals come it was rather simplistic. The Cambridge defence failed to deal with a long kick forward from Jones and there was Harrison to outmuscle his man and prod past Will Norris for a goal on his second Stevenage debut.
The visitors registered little in the way of chances until the 21st minute when they really should have levelled. Pinball in the midfield saw the ball eventually run behind the Boro defence for Ben Williamson to latch onto and take a touch around the advancing Jones but he only hit the post.
That perked the U’s up and on 26 minutes they won a corner after a probing run down the left. The resulting set piece was swung in and found Ryan Donaldson in space inside the box, but his fierce drive was parried by Jones and eventually cleared.
Michael Tonge fired a free-kick straight at Norris and then saw another shot deflect wide for a corner as Boro again ramped up the pressure in the closing stages of the half.
Norris was again called into action on 44 minutes, saving Wilkinson’s header at the back post, with Fraser Franks then making a crucial tackle at the other end to stop Cambridge on the counter.
There was even time for a near own-goal in Boro’s favour but Legge’s sliced clearance fell just past the far post.
Cambridge made a sub at the start of the second half, bringing striker Jimmy Spencer on for James Dunne and the U’s won a couple of early free-kicks. From the second of those they really should have levelled when Legge rose highest from just four yards but somehow planted his header over.
Visiting skipper Luke Berry saw a header saved acrobatically by Jones before brilliant skill from Hedges at the other saw the on-loan winger get into the box and fire in a cross which was somehow hacked behind with Pett lurking.
Charlie Lee and Tom Conlon both saw yellow as the game became quite feisty in the middle of the park, with midweek hero Conlon soon replaced by Lee Cox.
Stevenage were on top but really needed that second goal, which duly came on 62 minutes after brilliant individual work by Connor Ogilvie. Getting past his man inside the Boro half, the on-loan left-back powered down the left flank before firing in a low ball towards Harrison which found the back of the net via a defender.
The on-loan striker was replaced minutes later to a standing ovation but any thought that the pressure was off the Cambridge defence was wrong, as replacement Aaron O’Connor caused havoc of his own for his 25 minutes on the pitch.
On 68 minutes neat footwork in the box by Spencer saw the U’s striker fire at goal with the outside of his foot but Jones was comfortable. Then moments later at the other end Michael Tonge went down in the box, after a good move between O’Connor and Hedges, but referee Kavanagh waved away appeals.
Cambridge kept plugging away but all too often Boro’s defence was on top, with the busy Cox and the excellent Lee and Tonge providing great protection in front of them.
Six minutes of injury time were signalled but there was never a doubt about the result as Darren Sarll’s men saw out the game expertly to record an excellent three points ahead of next week’s trip to Carlisle United.
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Wilkinson, Franks, Ogilvie, Lee, Tonge, Conlon (Cox 61), Pett (Johnson 90), Harrison (O’Connor 66), Hedges
Subs not used: Day, Zanzala, Kerr, Gorman
Cambridge: Norris, Legge, Donaldson (Simpson 73), Berry, Dunk, Coulson, Dunne (Spencer 46), Williamson, Ledson, Furlong, Haynes (Ahearne-Grant 66)
Subs not used: Beasant, Omozusi, Roberts, O’Neill
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Attendance: 3,945 (1,270 away)