A good showing despite defeat...
Stevenage U18s fell just short in their quest for an FA Youth Cup Fifth Round spot on Thursday night as Middlesbrough came out trumps with a 2-1 win at the Lamex.
The away side went up by two goals early but Stevenage recovered from a shaky start to strike before the half, leaving a grandstand finish.
Considering Middlesbrough’s place in the U18s Premier League, it was certainly no disgrace from the young Boro boys as they pushed the visitors all the way.
The big team news ahead of kick-off was the fact that Ben Wilmot was not involved due to commitments with the First Team. U16 Luis Fernandez started alongside O’Keefe in his place whilst six goal Andronicos Georgiou started up top alongside Harry Draper.
Georgiou had a golden chance to put his side ahead after just 30 seconds – bursting through the Middlesbrough defence before forcing a fine stop from Hemming with his right leg.
Such was the class of the opposition, Stevenage were immediately punished. A looping volley from Wearne right into the top corner leaving Harness no chance in goal.
The proceeding 15 minutes saw neither side create any chance of note until recently signed, Dylan O’Donnell thrust his way into the box before shooting just wide from a narrow angle.
It had been a strong response from Stevenage after such an early set-back but once again, Middlesbrough would prove clinical.
Having failed to clear the ball as the visitors pressed for a second, the ball fell to Wearne inside a crowded area who lashed in with a vicious first time finish. Two goals to Middlesbrough and two goals for Wearne.
The lively Gouldbourne was a threat all night and almost immediately helped create the chance to half the deficit. Beating his man out wide, the winger fired in a low cross into the six yard box where Leslie was just half a second away from making contact to pull Boro back.
With nearly 30 minutes on the clock, Stevenage finally got their just rewards. Dylan O’Donnell with a clever ball through and Georgiou latching onto it before stroking home – game on at 1-2.
The remainder of the half was played out to little fanfare but Gibson’s guys would enter the dressing room with a much needed confidence boost having fought their way back into the game.
It was all Stevenage to start the second half and just a minute in, Hemming was back in the thick of it as he palmed away Leslie’s well hit effort. The winger released into the final third before striking firm from just inside the area.
The red and whites continued to press and won a number of dangerous free-kicks inside the opening 15 minutes of the half. Georgiou close to finding the bottom corner with one, whilst later on, his cross into the area flew across the face of goal with a number of unkind deflections seeing the ball go out for a corner.
Luis Fernandez was in the right place at the right time with 20 minutes to go as he threw his body in the way to deny a Middlesbrough effort from point-blank range. It was a chance that opened up more by fluke, a deflected clearance spinning its way across the face of goal.
With 15 minutes to go, Stevenage made their first change as Drillon Krasniqi made for fellow striker, Harry Payne. Both sides were appearing to tire as the game drew to a close so the manager would have been hoping for some extra bite and energy up top.
Gouldbourne - who still had plenty of energy - was having a fantastic game down the right hand side and once again beat his man before drilling a low ball across the area. Trapped by a Middlesbrough defender on the line - not enough Stevenage players throwing themselves towards goal.
Fernandez and Sackey-Mensah made way for Field and Smyth with 10 minutes to go as the best Middlesbrough would throw at them during the second half was a couple of wayward shots from the edge of the box and a comfortable header for Harness to collect.
Despite that, Stevenage couldn’t make their good play count as they chased an equaliser. O'Donnell was sent off in the closing stages after two yellow cards in quick succession and Middlesbrough held out for the win, knocking Boro’s boys out at the Fourth Round stage.
Team: Harness, Sackey-Mensah (80' Smyth), Luis Fernandez (80' Field), O'Keefe, Omar, Taylor, Gouldbourne, O'Donnell (90' sent off), Draper (76' Krasniqi), Georgiou, Leslie
Unused subs: Payne, Cockerton