Despite dominating against promotion favourites Bradford, Stevenage fell to their first ever Football League defeat after a Gareth Evans penalty.
This turned out to be Bradford's only shot on target and chance of any note as Stevenage came out intent from the start to get their first ever Football League win.
Speculative efforts from Henry and Laird went wide as Boro were at times camped out in the Bantams’ penalty area, and good work by Robbie Sinclair gave him the best chance to open the scoring but his left foot shot was blocked.
The threatening pace of Yemi Odubade pinned Bradford onto the back foot and crosses from the overlapping Ronnie Henry and Scott Laird had to be dealt with by former Stevenage man Luke Oliver with Charlie Griffin lurking.
Bradford were restricted to long-ball counter attacks, and on thirty-three minutes it was one of these that led to Lee Bullock turning into the area and an unfortunate mistimed tackle from Joel Byrom saw Bradford win a penalty, converted calmly by Evans.
The rest of the half was more even, but Griffin and the impressive Mousinho both had shooting opportunities thwarted.
The second period saw constant Stevenage pressure, with Bradford frustrated at having to play most of the match in their own half. Crosses from Laird failed to find a target, but it was when the ball was knocked over the top that Stevenage looked at their most dangerous.
Odubade’s pace again proved difficult to handle and soon it seemed as though Stevenage’s pressure and hard work would pay off after a poor backpass put Yemi clean through. However, Bantams’ keeper Jon McLaughlin profited from the Nigerian’s indecision to position himself and when the poked shot came it was a routine save.
Controversy followed soon after as Odubade went through again and fell under heavy pressure from Oliver, but the referee gave nothing. Unfortunately for Odubade he was injured shortly after in a collision with McLaughlin, and was duly substituted five minutes later.
The rest of the half saw Stevenage continue to pressurise the goal but were restricted to hopeful crosses and shots from distance as Bradford held firm. Boro occasionally broke into the box with Sinclair and Beardsley, but it seemed as though nobody was willing to shoot.
This hesitation led to promising attacks breaking down, much to the frustration of the large Stevenage following who had made the three and a half hour journey north. Further shots from Laird, Beardsley and Mousinho all failed to hit the target and a last minute free-kick from Griffin was hit high and wide.
As the final whistle blew, it was a testament to the strength of Stevenage’s performance that Bradford’s fans saw fit to boo their team. After the match, Bantams’ boss Peter Taylor admitted that Stevenage were tough opponents and that they definitely deserved something out of the game.
A few players really impressed me today. Jon Mousinho had an excellent debut in midfield and was the main reason why Bradford had so much trouble mounting attacks.
His tenacity and strength both in the air and on the ball meant that Stevenage dominated in midfield, and when he won the ball he always found a simple pass to help maintain possession.
Robbie Sinclair’s dribbling helped Boro get into the box on numerous occasions in the first half and his runs were usually finished with a pass that showed good vision.
Odubade was the main outlet for attacks and his speed and turns left defenders in his wake. He should have been on the scoresheet and would have deserved it too.
His replacement Peter Winn had an impact on the game in the time he was on and provided a useful wide option for Laird. He had strength and a presence on the ball but didn’t manage to drive into the box as much as may have been hoped.
Stevenage showed today that they are equipped to make a mark in League 2, but ultimately lacked an out-and-out striker with a goal threat who would be willing to take shots and win headers in the box.
Westley should perhaps look to the transfer market to find a proven goal scorer who can hit the net on a regular basis.
Stevenage undoubtedly dominated the match and pinned Bradford in their own half, but without creating enough by way of clear opportunities to score. Chris Day had little to do but unfortunately the same could be said for Jon McLaughlin.
However, nothing should be taken away from Stevenage’s performance which was excellent and more than enough to subdue the favourites for the championship at their own ground.
The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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