Third Round here we come...
Boro Number Nine Jason Cowley was the man of the moment in tonight’s Leasing.com Trophy Second Round clash with Colchester United, as the forward bagged himself a brace to send Stevenage through to the next round.
Ten days after the goalless draw at Walsall, Mark Sampson made three changes to his starting eleven with Tom Soares, Paul Digby and Emmanuel Sonupe coming in for Ben Nugent, Luther James-Wildin and Charlie Carter.
Paul Digby’s first start for Stevenage since signing in the summer was a much-welcomed inclusion in Boro’s back three, adding to Chris Stokes and Terence Vancooten in front of Paul Farman.
Michael Timlin and Tom Soares added experience into the middle of the park, with Charlie Lakin and Elliott list on each flank. Craig Mackail-Smith led the line up top, with Emmanuel Sonupe and Jason Cowley in behind.
Paul Digby’s presence in the heart of the Stevenage defence was immediately noticeable, clearing with ease after a Frank Nouble low cross in the first couple of minutes.
It did not take long, however, for Stevenage to go up the other end of the pitch and put themselves in front. As always, Elliott List was causing a nuisance of himself for the Colchester defenders to handle. His quick play resulted in Tom Eastman being able to nothing but bring him down inside the box on four minutes. Step up Jason Cowley, who slotted the ball calmly past Ethan Ross.
Minutes later, Emmanuel Sonupe almost doubled the visitors’ lead. After cutting in onto his favoured right foot, the attacker struck the ball towards the near post, but Ross was equal to it.
Five minutes later, Stevenage had another penalty. Target man Craig Mackail-Smith won a lofted ball from defence with his head, and flicked towards goalscorer Jason Cowley who was in on goal. Unselfishly, Cowley squared to Emmanuel Sonupe for an easy finish, before Luke Prosser could only take him down. Up stepped Jason Cowley for his second, but Ethan Ross was equal to it this time with a brilliant save.
Chances followed for the home side, both Callum Harriott and Cohen Brammall caused problems for the Stevenage defence with their mazy runs, but nothing to trouble Paul Farman.
The hour mark came and Stevenage had got that all important second goal. Jason Cowley found himself with the ball at his feet charging towards goal, and tried his luck from outside the area. He was rewarded with a hint of good fortune as the ball took a nick off Tom Eastman, and nestled into the top right corner of the Colchester goal. Stevenage fans elated, Colchester shocked.
Colchester had two more chances at Paul Farman’s goal before the break. Both from Kwame Poku, both off target.
Half-time came and Stevenage looked good value for their lead.
It was almost the perfect start to the half again for Stevenage, this time with the chance coming to the other striker up top, Craig Mackail-Smith. Terence Vancooten drilled a low ball across the Colchester goal, CMS took a first touch too heavy as the ball was cleared
The opening minutes of the second half saw a lot of end-to-end action, with both sides feeling that the next goal could swing the game in their favour.
Charlie Lakin had a snapshot from inside the area hit the near side-netting, before a good save from Paul Farman kept out Callum Harriott.
On the hour mark, and the hosts were back in the game. A troubling run from Frank Nouble out wide bustled his way into the Stevenage box before passing across goal, to find only Chris Stokes who could only find the back of his own net. An unfortunate goal to concede with the majority of the second half still to play.
Minutes later, Emmanuel Sonupe burst through the Colchester midfield as Stevenage looked to regain their two-goal advantage. The attacker looked to have been taken down purposefully after beating his man, but the referee waived claims away.
As we entered the final 25 minutes of the game, Luis Fernandez was introduced in place of Elliott List, in an order to sure up things at the back.
The introduction of Luke Gambin for the home side created problems for Stevenage outside the penalty area, with his pace and eye for a pass seemingly Colchester’s biggest threat in the second half. The midfielder played through Courtney Senior who was in on goal, but the out stuck leg of Paul Farman to keep the goal advantage.
Another Paul Farman save denied Kwame Poku from the edge of the area, before Mark Sampson decided to use his remaining substitutes and bring on Charlie Carter and Scott Cuthbert with 15 minutes to go.
Frank Nouble was deprived of an effort on goal with thanks to a last ditch block from Terence Vancooten with 10 minutes to go, while on the counter attack Craig Mackail-Smith could only hit the side netting with a half volley.
Colchester were reduced to shots from outside the area and half-hearted appeals for handball as Stevenage stood firm for the remainder of the 90, and won their place in the Third Round of the Leasing.com trophy.