MATCH REPORT: STEVENAGE 2, BRIGHTON 2 (3-4 PENS)
Stevenage secured a point in the Checkatrade Trophy with a 2-2 draw at home to Brighton tonight.
The visitors took the lead within a minute through and looked particularly bright in the first half but Callum Preston made several good saves. Boro were much improved in the second half and drew level on 59 minutes when Tyler Walker fired home.
Jesse Starkey looked to have won the game for Brighton with 8 minutes remaining only for sub Harry McKirdy to drew things level with a fine low finish on 87 minutes.
With the game tied, Brighton went on to win the resulting penalty shoot-out 4-3 with Boro twice hitting the woodwork.
Darren Sarll made five changes to his starting XI with Callum Preston, Luke Wilkinson, Connor Hunte and Andrew Fox given starts and there was also a very welcome return to first team action for Steve Schumacher. Scholars Luke Slater and Ben Wilmot were also among the subs.
Both teams lost their opening Group G game back in August and it was the visitors who got off to the best possible start with a goal after just 47 seconds. A blistering run down the left saw a cross whipped in which Boro could only half-clear, into the path of Rohan Ince who swept home from inside the box.
Stevenage took a while to get going against their lively opponents, but did go close through Schumacher and Hunte.
The visitors nearly extended their lead on 26 minutes when Gorman’s cross-field ball was intercepted and Manu was played in, only for Preston to come to the rescue with a fine save.
A minute later Boro nearly scored at the other end. Good play by Walker saw the striker hold off his defenders and find Ronnie, whose cross was just headed over by Schumacher.
Preston again denied Manu just past the half hour and then had to be sharp to deny Hutchinson and Manu again before the break.
Stevenage came out for the second half with much more purpose and even recovered from an early blow when Luke Wilkinson limped off, to be replaced by Michael Tonge. Dale Gorman slotted in at right-back with Ronnie Henry shuffling across to partner Jack King.
Boro were looking much better and drew level on 59 minutes thanks to a poacher’s finish from Walker. Tonge found Connor Hunte inside the box with a neat pass and when the winger’s first-time shot wasn’t gathered by Sanchez, Walker twisted before firing home.
Harry McKirdy came on for Walker with 21 minutes remaining and would go on to have a really bright cameo appearance, going close soon after coming on after a clever one-two with Hunte.
Fellow sub Jake Hyde headed over and if anyone was going to score it looked to be Darren Sarll’s men, until Brighton struck with 8 minutes remaining. Hunt found Ward who took the ball to the byline and crossed for Starkey to glance a head into the corner.
McKirdy, though, had other ideas and drew Boro level with four minutes remaining, rifling home from a narrow angle after great control moments earlier.
He nearly created a late, late winner too. Brilliant skill from the Aston Villa loanee in injury time saw him weave in and out of the Brighton defence before playing the ball across and somehow the visitors cleared under pressure.
The game went to penalties and although Tonge opened the scoring and Hunemeier blazed over, Albion won the shootout 4-3 with four cool penalties, with both Cowans and Hunte hitting the woodwork for Boro.
Next up for Stevenage is a home game on Saturday against league leaders Plymouth Argyle. Tickets for this game can be purchased at www.borotickets.co.uk.
Stevenage: Preston, Henry, Wilkinson (Tonge 50), King, Ntlhe, Schumacher (Hyde 60), Gorman, Cowans, Hunte, Walker (McKirdy 69), Fox
Subs not used: Jones, Lee, Slater, Wilmot
Brighton: Sanchez, Hunemeier, Pocognoli, Goldson, Manu (Ayunga 75), Ince, Starkey, Hutchinson (Tilly 75), Ward (Tighe 87), Hunt, Collar
Subs not used: Vose, White, Cadman, Harper
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 486 (41 away)