Back Boro to battle through
When Stevenage come to analyse their campaign, it may not be their FA Cup run, the departure of Graham Westley or the subsequent arrival of Gary Smith which is regarded as the key moment. At 3.33pm on April 14 Yeovil’s Michael Woods lunged in on Boro midfielder Michael Bostwick. He was shown a straight red card and Boro, who were leading 1-0 at the time, went on to ease to a 6-0 success.
It was only their second victory in 14 attempts but it was not simply the points – which reignited their play-off bid – but the manner of the triumph. It was the match-long equivalent of a striker ending a goal drought with a one-yard mishit against a six-year-old in the park. They may have been playing against ten tired men but that fixture was a release. A release from the frustration of nine draws in the previous 11 games, the frustration of the difficulties in adjusting to a new manager and the frustration of a fading play-off bid.
Smith’s side duly went on to triumph in two vital home fixtures against fellow top-six hopefuls Carlisle and Brentford. Last Saturday’s thrilling draw at Bramall Lane was enough to see the Hertfordshire side head into this weekend’s final-day visit of Bury in pole position to seal their spot in the play-offs.
They must win to ensure Notts County – who sit seventh, level on points but with an inferior goal difference – and eighth-placed Carlisle cannot spoil the party. And with the momentum of ten points from 12, as well as their significant recent experience of crunch end-of-season fixtures, we expect the hosts to do the business against the mid-table Shakers.
In recent years, Boro have performed best with their backs against the wall. Not by chance have they secured consecutive promotions. Their success has been based on a formidable back line which includes keeper Chris Day, skipper Mark Roberts and long-serving Ronnie Henry. The trio have been near ever presents for three seasons, during which time they have shipped just 113 goals in 136 league outings.
(By comparison, Sheffield Wednesday have conceded 184 over the same period.)
It is with good reason that the win to nil appeals on Saturday. When the pressure is on, they are well-equipped to revert to type. Smith has long since realised the secret to the club’s success under Westley; his challenge has been to retain the strengths of the previous regime rather than tinkering for change’s sake. Day, Roberts and Henry ought to be able to perform almost on auto-pilot, with memories of previous successes
Look further back to the 2009/10 run-in, as Stevenage took the Blue Square Bet Premier title. They finished the campaign with six straight victories to nil.
The Shakers may be interested in throwing a spanner in the works, but better sides have come away from Broadhall Way with their tails between their legs. Richie Barker’s men have enjoyed an upturn in the closing stages to pull away from the drop zone but they have conceded as many goals on the road as Boro have in total.
History points to Stevenage showing their mettle when it matters most and we’re happy to side with them once more.
Best of the rest:
Best of the Bets Show
- @Jonathan__Hill No mate, just footy atm, although Sam's your man for such enquiries now. Not sure about the summer schedule. — 3 hours 3 min ago
- Big basketball action tonight as the Spurs meet the Grizzlies. @Heavenbet prices are available here: http://t.co/hiOy0ziDHX — 16 hours 15 min ago
- @vasman60 Yeah, well weird. Don't mind this Eastern/Western business, so long as they sort a bog-standard round-robin. — 17 hours 4 min ago
- Been umming and ahhing about punting on MLS but my OCD couldn't cope with a league consisting of 19 teams. Nice one, City. #fuckoffredbulls — 17 hours 15 min ago
- @OllieHolt22 It's also going to be the most biased thing you've ever read. Loved his last one, but nearly every page needed a pinch of salt. — 18 hours 4 min ago