Stevenage fell to a 3-0 defeat against MK Dons in the Leasing.com Trophy as the League One side showed a clinical edge that Boro were sadly lacking...
Despite an encouraging performance from such a young side, the Dons piled on the punishment in the latter stages to extend the score-line from 1-0 to 3-0 inside the final 10 minutes.
The game off to a typical start for Stevenage this season – an early injury meaning that skipper for the night, Tom Soares had to be replaced by Craig Mackail-Smith, for his first Stevenage appearance, coming just done day after signing.
With an average age of just 21.6, Boro’s youthful starting line-up were always going to have a tough task on their hands and it got even tougher just 15 minutes in, as Conor McGranville fired in a low, powerful shot through a crowd of bodies and into the net.
Mackail-Smith had a golden opportunity to pull a goal back on his debut less than 10 minutes later, after Elliott List burst onto what looked like a lost cause, to take the ball to the by-line, beat his man and backheel the ball into Mackail Smith’s path but the former Brighton forward couldn’t find a way past Moore in goal.
It was List that was getting the Stevenage supporters off their feet in the first half with his dazzling footwork and rapid pace. Twice again he came close to setting up a goalscoring opportunity before the half was out.
First, after twisting his man inside out on the left hand side of the area, List crossed for Crowley to attack but the chance was snuffed out by the Dons defenders. Soon after, List again chased down a long ball, keeping it in play, set the ball for Denton, whose cross found Mackail-Smith, who headed narrowly wide.
Just before the half was up, Jack Smith came the width of the post away from scoring a wonder goal on his first full debut, curling a long-range effort just wide of the top corner.
Jack Smith was first to have a real chance at goal in the second half too, letting off a first-time strike from the edge of the box that was hit straight and true, just a little too close to the goalkeeper.
It was Stevenage that were making all the running in the second half, pinning back the more experienced Dons into their own half and creating a number of promising openings to no avail.
Then, with just over 10 minutes to go, the Dons broke forward through the dangerous Sam Nombe who was able to all but kill off the game with a neat finish past the advancing Bastien.
Cowley came close to halving the deficit almost immediately after, forcing a fine save out of Stuart Moore who beat away the striker’s curling effort out of danger.
Then, in an almost exact repeat of his first goal, Nombe once again burst through the centre of defence to leave himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, ending in the same result.
By the end of the match, there were five Academy graduates/scholars on the pitch for Boro and it was a harsh result for Maamria’s young troops, but a harsh lesson also as the squad now prepare for the return of Sky Bet League Two on Saturday with a trip to Cheltenham.