Good riddance 2019.
Stevenage ended the decade with a 2-1 defeat in Devon, after a heart-breaking 95th Plymouth equaliser.
Graham Westley made just the one change in his second game in charge since being reappointed Stevenage Manger a fortnight ago. Craig Mackail-Smith came in to the starting eleven in place of Charlie Carter, who missed out through injury. Arthur Iontton was called up to the substitutes bench to complete the eighteen.
Stevenage got off to a good start in Devon, with Jason Cowley leading the line and Craig Mackail-Smith and Elliott List on either wing. A goalmouth scramble almost got Graham Westley’s side off to a flyer, when the ball fell to the ferocious Jason Cowley, but could only fire his effort straight at Alex Palmer in the Plymouth goal.
A minute later, and Plymouth went close themselves. Star man Antoni Sarcevic tried his luck from 20 yards at Paul Farman’s goal, only for his effort to be deflected just wide of the post.
Ten minutes later, and Stevenage had their best chance of the half. A long goal kick upfield from Paul Farman was won well by the head of Jason Cowley, who knocked it down for Elliott List. The pace and dribbling ability of list would continue to cause problems for the Plymouth backline, and in this instance almost gave Stevenage the lead. List beat his man before firing a goal with his left foot, but could not beat Palmer at his near post.
There were then chances for Paul Digby and Danny Mayor at either end of the pitch, but is was a touch of fortune that gave the hosts the lead.
A sweeping cross field ball from Niall Canavan found Byron Moore in space driving forward from right back, who Tyler Denton seemed to be equal with the whole way. But, Moore’s cross took a mean deflection off the Stevenage left back, and the ball looped over Paul Farman and into the net. Stevenage were behind in such an undeserved manner.
After the opener, the remainder of the first half was mostly Plymouth. George Cooper’s free-kick was saved well by Paul Farman, before Scott Cuthbert’s block almost resulted in a second own goal of the game.
There were minor appeals for a penalty after Elliott List went down in the Plymouth box, but the referee disagreed as the half came to an end.
The second half started much how the first ended. Joe Edwards was found on the edge of the Plymouth box, and came just inches from doubling the hosts’ advantage as the ball rolled wide of Farman’s goal.
But, a slice Ben Kennedy magic almost gave Stevenage the all important equaliser. Boro’s number ten slipped into the gap of Plymouth’s defence and midfield, and curled a left-footed strike towards goal. The away contingent were almost already celebrating, as the ball fell agonisingly wide of the far post.
Stevenage did not, however, have to wait much longer for that leveller. Ben Nugent decided to do his best Andrea Pirlo impression, with an inch perfect cross field ping towards the feet of Elliott List. The forward took the ball down impeccably, before taking on his defender and driving towards goal. List’s right footed strike found the net at the back post, before the Stevenage players went over to celebrate with the goal scorer and provider. Graham Westley’s side were deservedly level.
After the goal, Plymouth expectedly pressed to regain their advantage immediately. Substitute Dominic Telford’s effort took a deflection towards Paul Farman’s goal, but this time the Boro stopper to collect the ball easily.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, there were half-chances for either side. Tyler Denton tried his luck from the corner of the box with a low drilled effort, but could only drag his effort wide. Antoni had the chance for a volley inside the Stevenage box, but could only fire his effort over Paul Farman’s crossbar.
Michael Timlin and Emmanuel Sonupe were introduced as Graham Westley felt the need for some fresh legs as the game headed towards its end.
Dean Parrett almost played in Emmanuel Sonupe with five minutes to play with a cheeky chip over the Plymouth defence, but Alex Palmer did well to come off his line early and collect.
It was almost the perfect ending to a perfect performance for Stevenage, as Michael Timlin’s effort took a wicked deflection and ended up in the Plymouth net. It would have been perfect, but for the referee to have blown his whistle in the build up.
But, as was the case last season, Plymouth do not give up in their search for a winner. Conor Grant’s cross was flicked on by Joel Grant, to find Niall Canavan at the back post who put the ball in. Heartbreak for Stevenage.
A fantastic team performance which was nowhere near justifiable of the score line, bring on 2020.