Stevenage fell to a 2-1 defeat this afternoon as Plymouth Argyle kept up their momentum at the top of the Sky Bet League 2 table.
After a battling yet goalless first half, the visitors went in front two minutes after the break through a Sonny Bradley header, only for Boro to hit back on 53 minutes later thanks to an own-goal from the same player. Parity only lasted a matter of minutes, however, as Bradley again rose to meet a Carey free-kick to restore the visitors' advantage. Boro pushed forward in the closing moments and had late chances through King and Tonge but Argyle held on for all three points.
Darren Sarll made six changes from Tuesday night’s Checkatrade Trophy game with Jamie Jones, Dean Wells, Fraser Franks, Charlie Lee, Tom Pett and Matty Godden coming in for Callum Preston, Luke Wilkinson, Steve Schumacher, Dale Gorman, Connor Hunte and the injured Tyler Walker.
An even start to the first half saw plenty of energy and enthusiasm by both sides, with Boro’s pressing game working well to stop Argyle’s flow.
Indeed it was Darren Sarll’s men who were creating the best of the early chances with the returning Matty Godden forcing McCormick into a low save on 13 minutes and Fraser Franks then heading towards goal, only to see the ball plucked out of the air by the ‘keeper.
On 18 minutes Godden rattled the bar with a lofted effort after a header from King released him, but his run was timed moments too early and he was flagged offside.
At the other end Argyle went close when Graham Carey drilled a first time shot wide of Jones’ far post after a good pass by Spencer. Meanwhile a neat set-piece by Boro on 21 minutes saw Cowans find the inrushing Ntlhe but the left-back’s header flew just wide.
Henry Cowans was keeping play neat and tidy in the middle of the park for Boro and also providing a threat with his delivery from set pieces, with Charlie Lee going twice in quick succession before the break. A 35th minute cross was centimetres away from the midfielder, with a similar situation three minutes later seeing Lee connect this time, but head over.
Neither team made a chance at half-time but two minutes after the restart, Plymouth took the lead. Ronnie Henry was cautioned for clipping Slew’s heels to the side of the box and the inswinging free-kick was flicked home by Sonny Bradley in front of the travelling fans.
Jack King went close to an immediate equaliser with a strike from distance but it wasn’t long until Boro struck back. The referee awarded a free-kick to the left of the Argyle area and when Cowans’ fired in a cross, the ball flew into the back of the net off a defender – possibly Bradley again.
Parity was restored for just a matter of minutes though as Plymouth retook the lead. This time it was a free-kick to the right of the area, but from Carey’s precision cross, Bradley powered home his second for 2-1.
Jamie Jones denied Carey from curling in a third with 20 minutes remaining and then turned a fierce Jervis shot away after the striker had run at Ntlhe.
Boro had made a double-sub on 72 minutes, throwing on Harry McKirdy and Jake Hyde and with Argyle looking to shut up shop, the chances began to fall Boro’s way. Ntlhe fired wide after another Cowans free-kick fell to the defender inside the box before McKirdy went close from close-range and then King struck a sweet volley straight at McCormick.
An injury time effort from sub Michael Tonge was fierce but flew over and referee Joyce blew soon afterwards for full-time.
Next up for Stevenage is a trip to Morecambe next Saturday. Tickets for this game can be bought at www.borotickets.co.uk.
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Wells, Franks, Ntlhe, Lee, Cowans (Tonge 82), King, Pett (Hyde 72), Godden, Fox (McKirdy 72)
Subs not used: Day, Wilkinson, Schumacher, Gorman
Plymouth: McCormick, Miller, Songo’o, Bulvitis, Slew (Goodwillie 90), Spencer, Carey (Smith 80), Jervis, Bradley, Purrington, Fox (Ijaha 86)
Subs not used: Dorel, Donaldson, Osbourne, Tanner
Referee: Ross Joyce
Attendance: 2,881 (904 away)