Boro's afternoon in Rochdale ends in defeat...
Stevenage went on their travels for the second time in five days, after the thrilling 3-2 victory against AFC Wimbledon in mid-week. Today, the opponents standing in the way of another three points was Rochdale, who were fighting for their lives in the battle for safety.
Steve Evans made four changes from Tuesday’s victory in South-West London as Jordan Roberts, Michael Bostwick, Jonathan Tomkinson and Jake Forster-Caskey returned to the starting eleven.
The back three consisted of Dan Sweeney, Jonathan Tomkinson and captain Carl Piergianni, with Max Clark at left wing-back and Alex Gilbey occupying the right wing-back role after an impressive showing there on Tuesday.
Michael Bostwick sat in front of the back three, behind Jake Forster-Caskey and Jordan Roberts. The strike partnership of Luke Norris and Jamie Reid started up top.
After just seven minutes, Rochdale took a surprising lead. Abraham Odoh calmly played the ball to Devante Rodney inside the area who slotted it past Toby Savin to open the scoring.
Stevenage suddenly had an unprecedented task on their hands as they looked to get a vital result. Max Clark found Luke Norris in the box who touched it down with his chest before turning and firing over the bar.
After twenty minutes, Boro came close to grabbing an equaliser as centre-back Dan Sweeney drove forward with the ball and tried his luck from long-range with a low driven effort, but Richard O’Donnell got down quickly to deny.
The disappointing start for Stevenage continued though, as after twenty-eight minutes, Rochdale doubled their lead. Abraham Odoh had plenty of space to run into after a quick break-away, before squaring the ball to Danny Lloyd to tap in from close range.
Steve Evans then made two tactical changes, with Jonathan Tomkinson and Jake Forster-Caskey departing for Kane Smith and Jake Taylor.
Stevenage created two chances in the closing stages of the half that resulted in Richard O’Donnell denying efforts from Jamie Reid and Jordan Roberts. Ultimately though, the side went into the break two goals down and in need of a much-improved second-half.
At half-time, Evans made a third change as Jake Reeves was brought on in place of Michael Bostwick in midfield. Five minutes into the half, Jordan Roberts looked to tap in from close-range but was forced to watch the ball cleared off the line.
An hour in, Stevenage were unlucky not to get one back as Jordan Roberts headed on goal from a corner, but Rochdale cleared the danger. Just over ten minutes later, Boro had another chance, but Carl Piergianni fired wide with his weaker right foot.
Stevenage were building the play up nicely as the final ten minutes approached. Jordan Roberts’ ball into the box looked to be flicked on by Jake Taylor but Richard O’Donnell superbly kept a hold of his side’s two-goal advantage.
Evans’ final roll of the dice meant that Josh March and Danny Rose were introduced in place of Luke Norris and Jamie Reid to change things around in attack in the hopes of a miraculous ending.
The duo looked to make an instant impact as Danny Rose knocked the ball down to Josh March, but the striker’s effort deflected over the bar.
The fourth official soon held up five additional minutes with the hosts holding on to their two-goal lead. Boro saw more of the ball in the final moments and to sum up the afternoon, Jordan Roberts' effort bounced off the post before Jake Taylor fired over the bar from close-range.
The referee then blew his final whistle to conclude a rather disappointing afternoon. Boro will look to bounce back next weekend as they welcome Walsall to The Lamex Stadium.