Ten-man Stevenage hung on in style to record a 2-1 home win over Cheltenham in a passionate Valentine’s Day battle at The Lamex Stadium.
Goals from Matt Godden and Luke Wilkinson had given Boro a 2-0 lead after 50 minutes but a second yellow card for Charlie Lee six minutes later put the hosts down to 10 men. Cheltenham began to throw more and more people forward and pulled one back through a Kyle Wootton volley on eighty minutes. From that point onwards the visitors laid siege to Boro’s 18 yard box but the home defence stood firm to record their fourth straight win.
Darren Sarll kept faith with the majority of the side that comfortably dispatched Wycombe on Saturday, with the only enforced change being Fraser Franks coming in for Jack King. There were also returns on the bench for Ben Kennedy and Dean Wells.
Cheltenham started much the brighter of the two teams and used their aerial advantage to win a number of corners in the first 10 minutes, but Boro defended well.
However having been second-best for much of the opening quarter of an hour, Stevenage took the lead on 17 minutes through top-scorer Matt Godden. The striker latched onto a ball forward, got into the box and was hauled down by on-loan defender Emmanuel Onariase. Referee Kettle blew for a foul, pointed to the spot and Godden powered home for 1-0.
On 27 minutes Jobi McAnuff saw a fierce volley from 18 yards blocked by Brown and 10 minutes later even skipper Ronnie Henry was getting in on the action, seeing a pop at goal blocked after the ball fell to him invitingly.
Two minutes before the break Charlie Lee was cautioned for a foul 25 yards out from the Boro goal that would come back to haunt him later in the game.
Steve Schumacher saw a shot deflect kindly for Brown as the fourth official signalled two minutes, with the hosts taking a goal advantage into the break.
Five minutes into the second half Darren Sarll’s men doubled their lead. Connor Ogilvie burst through the Cheltenham defence on the counter only to be crudely taken out. Schumacher swung in a deep free-kick, Lee leapt well to head across goal and Wilkinson nodded home for 2-0.
Josh McQuoid was enjoying another lively performance up top with Godden and went close to his first Boro goal on 52 minutes after a jinking run, but shot just over.
Stevenage were looking comfortable but a second yellow for Charlie Lee on 56 minutes, for a block, gave the final half hour a much different look.
Ben Kennedy had come on for Matty Godden moments before the dismissal and three times in a matter of minutes found himself penalised by the referee. One particular decision even saw the assistant referee flagging in Boro’s favour, but Mr Kettle ruled against the Northern Irishman and the East Terrace promptly let off steam in his direction, leading to a feisty atmosphere on another lively Tuesday night game at The Lamex.
With 17 minutes remaining, Schumacher saw a free-kick blocked and a volleyed attempt by McAnuff saw Brown turn the ball over for the save of the game.
With a man advantage Cheltenham gradually pushed their way up the pitch and from an 80th minute corner, Kyle Wootton’s acrobatic volley flew into the bottom corner to give the visitors a lifeline.
McAnuff again went close at the other end, but the final stages of the game saw Boro batten down the hatches as Cheltenham laid siege to the hosts’ 18-yard box. Fortunately whatever came their way, Stevenage’s defence stood firm putting in some courageous headers, blocks and clearances to constantly clear danger. Five minutes of added time were signalled to add further drama to proceedings, but referee Kettle eventually whistled for full-time, much to the relief of the majority of those present.
A fourth straight win lifts Stevenage up a place to ninth in the Sky Bet League 2 table, with the gap to the playoff places now down to two points ahead of Saturday’s trip to Exeter City. Tickets for that game can be purchased at www.borotickets.co.uk.
Stevenage: Jones, Henry, Wilkinson, Franks, Ogilvie, Pett, Schumacher, Lee, McAnuff, McQuoid (Tonge 76), Godden (Kennedy 54)
Subs not used: Day, Gorman, Wells, Cowans, Hinds
Cheltenham Town: Brown, Pell, Waters (Dayton 66), Boyle, Cranston, Rowe, Wootton, Onariase, Pike, Winchester (Holman 60), Davis (Munns 77)
Subs not used: Kitscha, Storer, O’Shaughnessy, De Girolamo
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Attendance: 1,930 (79 away)