Stevenage made it back-to-back league wins on the road with an excellent 2-1 win at Mansfield Town this afternoon.
Charlie Lee gave Boro a first half-lead, heading home a Henry Cowans' free-kick and although Pat Hoban equalised for the Stags in the second half, Aston Villa loanee Harry McKirdy raced away to score a brilliant second goal minutes later to secure a big three points for Stevenage.
Darren Sarll made just the single change to his starting XI with Harry McKirdy handed his first Boro start – and his first in professional football – in place of the injured Matt Godden. Jake Hyde and Rowan Liburd also returned to the bench after missing out last week.
After an evening first 10 minutes it was Boro who created the first half-chances on goal. Ronnie Henry swung in a dangerous cross on 12 minutes which skimmed off a Mansfield head and a minute later King was inches away from connecting to a long-ball forward but ‘keeper Scott Shearer got there just in time.
Despite being up against experienced, physical defenders McKirdy was looking lively up top for Boro. A great take on the quarter hour saw the Villa loanee turn Pearce and skip past the defender, before crossing for Shearer to parry away and Mansfield cleared.
Stevenage somehow cleared a neatly worked corner from Mansfield just before the 20 minute mark and that served as a reminder of the hosts’ attacking threat. Kevan Hurst then went close with a half-volley from distance, but Jones looked comfortably as it flew over his crossbar.
The game continued with both sides looking to assert themselves and it was Stevenage who went closest on 28 minutes when Dale Gorman clipped a ball into the box. In nipped Jack King, before ‘keeper Shearer, but the midfielder was pushed wide and although he fired in a low cross, neither McKirdy or Kennedy were there to convert.
Just past the half-hour and Stevenage broke the deadlock. Ben Kennedy won a free-kick towards the left-flank, 25 yards out and when Henry Cowans curled the ball in, there was Charlie Lee to power a header home.
Matt Green saw a shot brilliantly blocked by Fraser Franks and Mal Benning headed over with the goal at his mercy as Mansfield pushed for an equaliser before the break, but Boro held firm to lead 1-0 at half-time.
The hosts came out for the second half five minutes early but it was Darren Sarll’s men who came closest to scoring again on 50 minutes. Good play around the edge of the box saw Kennedy play the ball back to Charlie Lee, who saw his shot with the outside of his foot turned over by Shearer.
Just as Stevenage were looking comfortable, Mansfield equalised and through a familiar face. Former loanee Pat Hoban pulled the Stags level on 54 minutes, firing home from closing range after Jamie Jones had turned Rhys Bennett’s cross away with Boro struggling to clear.
Mansfield had their heads up but almost immediately Stevenage retook the lead on 57 minutes. A flick-on from Kennedy on the half-way line released McKirdy and the Villa loanee sprinted the length of the half, outpacing his defender and waiting for the ‘keeper to go down before lifting the ball into the back of the net. A first league goal on his first professional start and what a way to do it.
From that point the Stags really pushed forward, throwing on strikers Danny Rose and Darius Henderson however that merely created space for Boro to counter into. Ben Kennedy whipped in a dangerous cross on the hour which missed everyone and then Henry Cowans – with another mature display in the middle of the pitch – had two efforts moments later but saw one blocked and fired over with the second.
The tiring McKirdy was replaced with 20 minutes remaining but sub Rowan Liburd could have made the points safe five minutes later, but Shearer denied him from close range with a fine save.
Dean Wells came on for Charlie Lee as Boro tightened up at the back with Fraser Franks moving along to left-back and Kgosi Ntlhe offering protection in front of him, as sub Tom Pett was also doing on the right.
Wave after wave of Mansfield crosses came into the box but Boro stood firm with either Jamie Jones collecting with ease or Wilkinson or Wells clearing with towering headers. Even during six minutes of added time the Stags laid siege to Stevenage’s 18 yard box but Darren Sarll’s men repelled everything that came their way to secure a deserved three points.
After a midweek Herts Senior Cup tie against St Margaretsbury, attention will then turn to Saturday’s big FA Cup game at Port Vale. Play like this away from home and Boro will stand a good chance of making it into the second round draw. Tickets for that game can be purchased at www.borotickets.co.uk.
Mansfield: Shearer, Bennett, Benning, Collins (C), Pearce, Clements, Hoban (Rose 70), Green, Hurst (Henderson 64), Howkins, Iacovitti (Thomas 48)
Subs not used: Jensen, M.Rose, Hamilton, McGuire
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Wilkinson, Franks, Ntlhe, Gorman (Pett 55), Lee (Wells 80), King, Cowans, Kennedy, McKirdy (Liburd 70)
Subs not used: Day, Fox, Hyde, Tonge
Referee: Mark Heywood
Attendance: 2,716 (100 away)