Stevenage return to Sky Bet League One with a hard-earned victory in Northampton...
Stevenage kicked off life in Sky Bet League One, after nine years away from the third tier, with a short trip to fellow newcomers Northampton Town. Boro’s Two newest recruits Finley Burns and Aaron Pressley made the starting eleven at centre back and centre forward respectively after signing earlier in the week.
Taye Ashby-Hammond made his first start in goal as a permanent Stevenage player behind a back three of Carl Piergianni, Nathan Thompson and Finley Burns. Luther James-Wildin and debutant Dan Butler occupied the wing-back roles either side of a Thompson midfield duo of Louis and Ben. Jordan Roberts floated behind the strike partnership of Jamie Reid and Aaron Pressley.
The atmosphere from all four sides of the ground was electric at kick-off, including the away end behind the goal which consisted of around a thousand noisy Boro fans.
The first ten minutes were very open, but it was Stevenage who earned themselves the first effort on target. Dan Butler carefully watched the ball fall from the sky before unleashing a powerful volley which was calmly collected by Lee Burge.
Northampton’s first real chance could’ve easily found the back of the net after ten minutes as Patrick Brough rushed through on goal, but his effort was superbly pushed onto the crossbar by Taye Ashby-Hammond.
First the crossbar, then it was the post that denied Northampton the lead. Tyreece Simpson found himself in a shooting position on the right-hand side of the area before placing it past Ashby-Hammond, but his effort ricocheted off the woodwork.
The action had quietened down by the half hour mark and Stevenage were fortunate that the scoring remained level. They did enjoy a brief attacking phase as Louis Thompson found Ben Thompson in the area, but his shot was fired wide.
Boro were really growing into the game in the later stages of the half as they looked to unpick the Cobblers’ defence. Jamie Reid whipped in a cross from the right wing, with Aaron Pressley tapping it wide.
Northampton went back to being on the front foot shortly after though, with Stevenage having to defend for their lives and make some crucial blocks. An astonishining eight minutes of added time were held up by the fourth official at the end of the first forty-five.
Boro withstood the pressure from the Cobblers and eventually the referee blew his whistle for half-time.
The heavens opened during the interval as Northampton made an attacking half-time change with striker Louis Appere replacing wing-back Akin Odimayo. No changes were made by Stevenage.
Taye Ashby-Hammond was called into action on several occasions in the first fifteen minutes of the half, but collected everything that came his way to keep the score line goalless.
Steve Evans made his first change of the afternoon on the hour mark as Ben Thompson made way for Nick Freeman making his debut in a like-for-like swap.
Boro showed glimpses in the attacking third soon after as they looked to take the lead. Aaron Pressley, Louis Thompson and Jamie Reid all saw chances fall wide.
A second change was made with twenty minutes of the ninety remaining as Jake Forster-Caskey slotted into midfield, replacing Jamie Reid with Jordan Roberts stepping up top.
Stevenage looked more in control as the game progressed with Northampton on the back foot. Jordan Roberts cut in on his favoured left foot and had his effort blocked.
On the eightieth minute, Stevenage broke the deadlock and scored their first goal in League One for over nine years. Forster-Caskey’s delightful ball into the area caused all sorts of problems for Northampton’s defence as Carl Piergianni tapped in at the back post, despite a clearance behind the line. Boro had to be patient, but they got their goal.
When the game appeared to be coming to an end, the fourth official held up fourteen minutes of additional time. Stevenage had to do everything in their power to keep their one goal advantage. Josh March was brought on for Aaron Pressley.
Stevenage looked reasonably comfortable in additional time with Taye Ashby-Hammond hardly being tested. Northampton failed to push for an equaliser as finally the referee blew his whistle for full-time.
Boro worked incredibly hard all afternoon and it paid off as they picked up their first victory at Sixfields Stadium after eleven attempts. Attention now turns to Tuesday as Steve Evans’ men welcome Watford to The Lamex Stadium in the Carabao Cup.
Attendance: 7,049 including 961 away supporters.