Stevenage take a point back to Hertfordshire...
Boro travelled to the Southwest for a clash with Joey Barton’s Bristol Rovers, with both sides looking to pick up valuable points in their League One campaigns. The gaffer made two changes from Saturday’s draw with Port Vale as Louis Thompson and Kane Hemmings came into the side, replacing Kane Smith and Nathan Thompson.
Stevenage lined up with a back four of Luther James-Wildin, Terence Vancooten, Carl Piergianni and Dan Butler, with Taye Ashby-Hammond between the sticks. The midfield trio consisted of Louis Thompson, Jake Forster-Caskey and Nick Freeman behind a dynamic front three of Jordan Roberts, Kane Hemmings and Jamie Reid.
Ahead of kick-off, the Memorial Stadium took part in a minute’s applause in memory and respect of footballing icon, Sir Bobby Charlton, who sadly passed away on Saturday, aged 86.
It was a slow start to the game with little action occurring in either 18-yard-area, but Stevenage created their first chance after twenty minutes. Kane Hemmings had a hold of the ball on the left-wing before playing it to Jamie Reid just inside the area who fired wide with his weaker foot.
On the half-hour mark, Boro almost took the lead courtesy of a long Taye Ashby-Hammond goal-kick finding Kane Hemmings. The forward beat his man before forcing Matt Cox to stretch to his right and save his powerful effort.
The hosts had a flurry of free kicks soon after from shooting range, but Stevenage set up superbly, blocking the efforts that came at them as they prevented the Gas from taking the lead.
Down the other end, it was Boro’s turn for a free-kick as Jake Forster-Caskey delivered a delightful ball into the box with Carl Piergianni getting his head on it and forcing the opposition stopper into a smart save.
Stevenage pushed for the opener and got it with five minutes of the half remaining. Jordan Roberts’ cross into the area caused problems as a Bristol Rovers defender collided with his own goalkeeper, allowing Jamie Reid to fire into an empty net and give us the lead. The referee then blew his half-time whistle to send Stevenage into the break a goal up.
Bristol Rovers made two substitutions ahead of the second half, but the Boro gaffer opted for the same eleven. Just a couple of minutes into the half though, Terence Vancooten made way for Nathan Thompson in a swap of defenders.
The rain grew worse in the second half, but Boro continued to defend well as they looked to keep a second clean sheet in the space of four days.
Stevenage couldn’t have come any closer to doubling their lead on the hour mark as Carl Piergianni’s strong header crashed against the post to the relief of the frustrated hosts.
A double substitution was made by the gaffer five minutes later as Finley Burns and Elliott List were introduced in place of Louis Thompson and Kane Hemmings respectively.
A fourth Boro change followed soon after, as Jake Forster-Caskey appeared to feel some tightness in his leg and was replaced by Ben Thompson in midfield.
Frustrations increased for Bristol Rovers as Boro continued to defend well in an attempt to hold onto their clean sheet. When Stevenage were in possession, they were able to control the game and keep it at the pace they wished for.
With just under ten minutes to play, the hosts scored from completely nothing. Chris Martin spotted Taye Ashby-Hammond off his line before firing from long range and finding the back of the net to level the scoring, despite claims of an offside and handball in the build up to Martin receiving the ball.
Boro came back at the Gas and almost grabbed a late winner. Jordan Roberts fired first-time inside the area, but Matt Cox held on well.
Five additional minutes were indicated by the fourth official as the score was level going into injury time. However, little action occurred in that time as the referee soon blew his final whistle to give the sides a share of the spoils.
Attention now turns to a huge home clash on Saturday as Derby County come to town.