Goals from Jake Reeves and Jordan Roberts wrap up all three points for Stevenage Football Club to kick off the 2022/23 campaign...
The highly anticipated 2022/23 campaign kicked off in the Wirral for Stevenage with Micky Mellon’s Tranmere Rovers the opponents. All eyes were on the fresh new squad built by Steve Evans ahead of an exciting season for Boro.
Evans opted for a 3-5-2 formation on the opening day with Fulham loanee Ashby-Hammond between the sticks. The back three consisted of Sweeney, Vancooten and Piergianni with James-Wildin and Clark occupying the wing-back roles. The two holding midfielders were Bostwick and Reeves with Taylor more advanced, behind an attacking partnership of Norris and List.
Within the first two minutes, Boro came agonisingly close to grabbing the opener. After some immediate pressure, Evans’ men in purple won their first corner of the campaign. Max Clark delivered in a fantastic cross to an open Carl Piergianni but his header, which looked destined for the bottom left corner, was superbly denied by Rovers keeper Ross Doohan.
Stevenage continued to be the side on top in the opening ten minutes and even had the ball in the back of the net. The ball bounced between multiple players in the box before landing at Luke Norris’ feet who tucked it home in an offside position to the despair of the Boro faithful in the ‘Cowshed’ behind the goal.
The Boro dominance did not stop there however, as the Tranmere defence were on the back foot once again. Elliott List was through on goal but dragged his shot wide before Jake Reeves’s powerful effort inside the box was pushed wide of the post and out for a corner.
From the resulting corner, Carl Piergianni rose highest before his powerful header was cleared off the line by a Tranmere defender. A dominant first twenty minutes for Steve Evans’ men but the score remained goalless.
Just before the half hour mark, Elliott List picked up the first yellow card of the game after a late challenge on a Tranmere defender through frustrations of not winning a potential foul seconds prior.
Five minutes later, it was worrying scenes for Boro as Elliott List was stretchered off in discomfort after going down holding his foot. Jordan Roberts replaced the attacker, making his return to The EFL after his stint in Scotland.
The substitution did not seem to faze Stevenage as with five minutes remaining of the first half, the side in purple opened the scoring. Carl Piergianni’s long ball forward fell to Luke Norris’ feet who set up Jake Reeves for a simple enough strike to get Boro’s first goal of the campaign. Reeves’ last appearance in a Boro shirt was Tranmere away on the first of February 2022.
A big second half got underway and Micky Mellon’s half-time words seemingly came into fruition as Tranmere created the first chance of the half. Josh Hawkes’ effort at the back post hit the side-netting with the Tranmere fans thinking it was a goal.
The ‘Super White Army’s goal came soon after though, as Kane Hemmings picked up a rebound and blasted his effort off of the crossbar and in to level the scoring.
Tranmere were growing into the game at this stage and were looking to cause havoc in the Stevenage area. Taye Ashby-Hammond was forced to get down and deny a free-kick from twenty-odd yards out.
Boro aimed to regain their lead just after the hour mark as the ball rebounded out to Michael Bostwick near the penalty spot whose effort was blocked on the line and eventually cleared.
The chances were once again coming thick and fast for Stevenage, desperate to find a winner with twenty minutes remaining. First, Dan Sweeney’s header from a corner was well caught by Ross Doohan before Doohan then denied Jake Reeves’ outside-the-box effort.
Two changes were made by Steve Evans with ten minutes remaining as Saxon Earley, making his professional league debut, and Danny Rose replaced Max Clark and Luke Norris respectively.
With just over five minutes remaining, Stevenage regained a well-deserved lead. Jake Reeves stepped up to take a free-kick roughly thirty yards from goal before sending in a fantastic ball to the back post. Carl Piergianni, unsurprisingly rose highest to head across goal as Jordan Roberts was there to tap in and get his first competitive goal for Stevenage.
For the final five minutes, plus an additional four, Stevenage’s aim was to do absolutely everything they could to hold onto their one-goal advantage, and they did it to perfection. The referee blew his whistle to conclude a thrilling ninety minutes and send a smiling Boro home with all three points on the opening day of the season.