Tom Conlon double inspires Boro to a vital three points on the road...
Stevenage recorded a big three points with a fine 2-1 win at Hartlepool United this evening.
A goal from Tom Conlon in each half – his first for the club – gave Boro a comfortable lead and although Pools halved the deficit through Billy Paynter, the visitors stood strong defensively and recorded a much-needed win with a vastly improved performance.
Darren Sarll made two changes from the side that lost to Crawley on Saturday with Ryan Hedges handed his first start and Keith Keane coming in for Dale Gorman.
Stevenage began the game in bright fashion with only the referee’s whistle denying Wilkinson a clear header at goal when he challenged ‘keeper Trevor Carson after just three minutes.
Ryan Hedges made a brief sub appearance at the weekend against Crawley but was to impress throughout here, cutting inside on nine minutes and floating a great cross in for Wilkinson, only for Carson to claw his powerful goal-bound header away.
Two minutes later the on-loan Swansea winger was again causing chaos, toying with his man and then firing in a low cross which Pett met with a first time shot but Carson somehow kept his effort out with an incredible save, despite diving the opposite direction.
With Boro on top early on it took until the 19th minute for Hartlepool to register their first effort on goal. A long kick from Carson was nodded down for Billy Paynter, but the strike could only fire over Jones’ bar.
A minute later Dean Parrett was cautioned when a loose first touch in the middle of the park saw the midfielder stretch to recover possession, only to take his man instead.
Boro continued to push forward and neat move started by Parrett resulted in Keane seeing a shot blocked and then Dean firing over himself from a narrow angle.
Just past the half hour and Stevenage had Jamie Jones to thank for keeping the scores goalless as a Hartlepool corner was cleared, but a rocket of a shot came back forcing the ‘keeper to parry wide.
Seven minutes before the break the visitors were dealt a blow when Dean Parrett limped off injured however his replacement Tom Conlon was to go on to have a major say in the game, giving Boro a deserved lead on the stroke of half-time. The young midfielder advanced to the edge of the area, cut inside onto his left foot and dodged a tackle before firing high back across Carson into the top corner. A spectacular way to open your goalscoring account.
The visitors began the second half in equally bright fashion and lovely build-up play between Pett and Conlon saw the former fire in a low shot which Carson saved at his near post.
That pressure soon lead to Boro’s second. Good approach play by Pett down the right saw the winger find O’Connor in the box. The striker showed neat footwork and fired in a shot which deflected kindly into Conlon’s path to stroke home a second.
Hartlepool began to push forward looking to get back into the game but that naturally left gaps for Boro to counter into at the back. One such attack on 55 minutes saw Hedges run deep into Pools territory before swapping passes with Keane and firing straight at Carson.
The Swansea winger again saw a close-range shot blocked as Hartlepool’s defensive hesitency – and unwillingness to shoot at the other end – was causing plenty of groans and boos from the home faithful.
One such example was a free-kick on the hour from 25 yards which the hosts tried to take fancily, only for Boro to intercept rather simply and counter once again, cueing more boos around Victoria Park.
Conlon went close to his hat-trick with a decent effort from distance which flew straight at Carson, before Hartlepool pulled a goal back on 67 minutes. Right-back Jordan Richards advanced down the right and his ball was converted at the back post by Billy Paynter for 2-1.
Six minutes later Richards unleashed a spectacular volley at goal himself which was flying into the far corner, only for Jones to tip around the post at full-stretch for yet another incredible save.
Hartleppool upped the ante in the closing stages, throwing on forwards Fenwick and Bingham but Boro stood strong. Keane blocked a Paynter effort on the line and the big striker nodded a James cross over as a few chances came and went.
Five minutes of added time were signalled but Boro saw these out expertly to record a first win in 10 and cue ecstatic scenes at the final whistle in front of the small band of away fans.
Next up for Stevenage is the visit of Cambridge United on Saturday. Tickets for this Category A game can be purchased at www.borotickets.co.uk.
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Wilkinson, Wells, Ogilvie, Lee, Keane, Parrett (Conlon 38), Pett (Gorman 87), O’Connor, Hedges (Cox 81)
Subs not used: Day, Franks, Johnson, Zanzala
Hartlepool: Carson, Richards, Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Hawkins (Fenwick 58), Gray (Laurent 81), Magnay, Thomas (Bingham 81), Paynter, James.
Subs not used: Bartlett, Harrison, Jones, Featherstone
Referee: Ben Toner
Attendance: 3,308 (26 away)