Despite being tested defensively on a number of occasions, Boro emerged with another clean sheet after a controlled and resolute performance which denied Stanley automatic promotion, albeit with the aid of the crossbar which was rattled on three occasions.
Darren Sarll made four changes from the side that drew with AFC Wimbledon last weekend. Ryan Johnson, Charlie Lee, Tom Conlon and Adam Marriott all started with Luke Wilkinson, Dean Parrett, Jake Mulraney and Ben Kennedy dropping to the bench. Also among the subs was second year scholar Nathan Kerr.
The game started with efforts on goal but off-target from both sides. Josh Windass fired wide from 18 yards for Accrington and Charlie Lee shot from midway inside the opposition half but saw the ball sail high and wide.
On seven minutes Tom Conlon robbed possession in the middle of the pitch and fed Adam Marriott, who ran at goal but couldn’t get a clean connection and the ball bounced wide. Moments later Conlon was himself tackled on the edge of his own box, setting up a chance for Brad Halliday who could only fire wide.
Ten minutes in, Boro managed to win consecutive corners. Marriott saw a shot inside the box deflect wide for the second corner, from which Ronnie Henry got a touch and Ryan Johnson spun and fired wide.
Despite some decent early headers and touches Johnson was the first to go into referee Simon Hooper’s book on 25 minutes after the young defender brought Windass down just inside the Boro half.
Stevenage’s best chance of the half came just past the half hour. A wonderful diagonal ball from Henry found Greg Luer in the left channel and the on-loan Hull striker cut inside, created space and curled a shot inches over the bar.
Billy Kee headed wide at one end before Darren Sarll’s men were back on the attack at the other. Conlon was wrestled to the floor by Mark Hughes and up-stepped the young midfielder to hit an effort with pace and power, but brush the top of the net. Seeing the net rustle, the travelling fans in the opposite corner initially celebrated before quickly realising what had happened.
Luke Wilkinson replaced the cautioned Johnson at the start of the second half but seven minutes later there was nearly the breakthrough at the other end. A long ball bounced over former Boro man Mark Hughes and Luer fed Marriott who took a touch and fired straight at Etheridge.
The hosts continue to press but Wells, Wilkinson and Lee all got vital touches on inviting looking crosses or passes to avert danger away from Jamie Jones’ goal.
Billy Kee turned and fire wide on 63 minutes before a huge chance went begging for Stanley a minute later when Fosu dribbled at goal and fed Kee, who in turn found Windass who curled wide with the whole goal to aim at.
Fosu fired straight at Jones and was soon replaced by Shay McCartan, who himself rattled the woodwork within minutes, latching onto a loose ball in the box and seeing his first time effort hit the bar.
At the other end Marriott again went close but with time running out and Accrington seeking the breakthrough to confirm automatic promotion, the hosts laid siege to Stevenage’s goal. They won a series of free-kicks in the closing stages but a combination of resolute defending and the crossbar continued to deny them – one header bounced off the top of the bar and out for a goal-kick whilst an 87th minute corner saw another header smash against the bar.
Five minutes of added time were signalled but Stevenage saw this out to end the season with an impressive point. Meanwhile a late Bristol Rovers winner, combined with a victory for Oxford United, sees Accrington drop into the playoffs where they will face AFC Wimbledon in the semi-finals.
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Wells, Johnson (Wilkinson 46), Franks, Pett (Mulraney 66), Tonge, Lee, Conlon, Luer (Parrett 76), Marriott
Subs not used: Day, Kennedy, Gorman, Kerr
Accrington Stanley: Etheridge, Pearson, Davies, Hughes, Buxton; Mingoia, Conneely, Halliday (Brown 59), Fosu (McCartan 73), Windass, Kee
Subs not used: Mooney, Winnard, McConville, Boco
Referee: Simon Hooper
Attendance: 4,386 (155 away)