Stevenage put in their performance of the season at Forest Green Rovers on Saturday in a goalless draw that should have been more...
Chances came and went for Sampson’s side across the whole 90 minutes, whilst keeping Cooper’s men in check, but as it often goes when things aren’t going your way, no breakthrough could be found.
Four changes were named from the side that lost 1-0 against Northampton Town on Tuesday as Michael Timlin went straight into the starting XI after re-signing for the Club on Friday, whilst Jason Cowley and Tyler Denton are in to make their first league starts of the season. Arthur Iontton also returns to the team as Mackail-Smith, Newton, List and Husin have to settle for places on the bench.
Considering both sides form heading into the contest, Stevenage got off to a surprisingly confident start to proceedings. Jason Cowley, making his first league start, came inches away from a dream debut, flicking a near-post cross goalwards only to see Thomas get down quickly to make a startling save.
Kennedy tested his sights moments later, taking aim from his favourite shooting position, the right hand side of the edge of the box, but his whipped effort didn’t have quite enough curl and fell wide of the post.
Junior Mondal was first to shoot at goal for the home side, but his low shot from 20 yards was comfortably handled by Farman.
Kurtis Guthrie, returning along with Chris Stokes to his former Club, was at the centre of attention during the early goings, booked early for a late challenge on a FGR defender and then booed every time he touched the ball after then.
It was Boro who were the team on the front-foot throughout the first half though, just frustrated by the inability to turn dominance into goals. Kennedy had another chance from outside the box, this time from a free-kick, as his striker fell just the wrong side of Thomas’ goal.
Guthrie then created a superb opportunity for himself on 35 minutes, picking up the ball from a deep position, getting away from his marker before laying off and receiving a smart one-two and forcing Thomas into yet another fine stop. The ball came back out into the danger area where Cowley was waiting, but a Rovers man was there to turn it behind for a corner.
With the new man in charge has come about a new style of play, which can come with its own teething problems, as demonstrated by Denton’s stray pass across the back that was pounced upon by Aitchinson, whose shot was well defended and blocked to safety.
Before the half was out, Boro had a big penalty appeal turned down as Cowley raced onto Carter’s cushioned header into the space behind, but after appearing to be up-ended by Rawson, referee Darren Drysdale wasn’t interested.
Two substitutes at the break from Forest Green showed that Mark Cooper wasn’t happy with his first half display and things didn’t get much better for his side as Boro continued to push forward and stamp their authority on the match.
Inside the opening 10 minutes of the half, Charlie Carter had a header cleared off the line - in an identical chance to his one against Northampton - before a hectic goal-line scramble in which Stevenage just couldn’t quite turn the ball over the line.
The Green Devils finally began to settle into the match on the hour mark, and started to dictate play and look more of a threat going forward. Despite that, they were unable to create any clear cut opportunities as the match looked to be heading for a stalemate.
Cowley saw another chance go begging on 67 minutes, after Guthrie stole the ball off a covering defender, releasing Cowley into space, but his first time shot flew over the bar.
Boro wrestled back control of the game and had another couple of half chances before the 70th minute mark – Guthrie and Kennedy both getting blocked shots away as the match approached its conclusion.
Sampson saved his substitutes until the final 20 minutes as Kelland Watts was brought on to replace Arthur Iontton, Noor Husin came on for Tyler Denton and Danny Newton swapped places with Jason Cowley.
The second half saw chances come at more of a premium, with the feeling that one goal would decide the game very much in the air. With five minutes left on the clock, Aitchinson would pick up his second yellow card of the match, leaving Forest Green Rovers down to 10 men.
Then, with added time dwindling down, Boro had a golden opporutnity to take all three points as Kennedy broke clear of the defence down the left hand side and with Guthrie to aim at down the middle, the Northern Irishman just failed to pick out his man as the match ended all square.