Stevenage are slow out of the blocks again

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An all-too familiar scenario saw League Two newcomers Stevenage fail to gain the points they deserved due to a lack of goals, this time against Cheltenham.

The Stevenage team saw the suspended Stacy Long replaced by Lawrie Wilson and Jon Mousinho and Robbie Sinclair replaced by Joel Byrom and Tim Sills, who seemingly gained a starting berth due to his scoring exploits in a mid-week reserve game.

Boro went out desperate to regain the momentum of last season and find a much needed win to kick-start their as yet stuttering campaign. They almost took the lead early on after a training ground free kick saw Byrom receive the ball and force the Robins’ keeper into a good save with a solid strike.

Mark Roberts’ header from the resulting corner typified the sort of finishing Boro fans have been left ruing, as his unmarked header from a great position was disappointingly off target.

Tim Sills’ header was also over the bar and another Byrom shot was palmed away by Scott Brown, who (literally at times) single-handedly kept alive Cheltenham’s hopes of a first clean sheet of the season.

Stevenage were hardly troubled at all by the Robins’ front line, with Michael Bostwick back to his commanding best playing in front of Ashton and Roberts.

The Boro defence had little of any note to contend with in the first period and as the teams went in for half time, few fans would have been willing to bet against them picking up their first away win of the season.

However, football rarely runs predictably and Mark Yates’ men rallied after the break and came out improved following a scrappy first half performance.

Nevertheless, shortly after the re-start Stevenage had two seemingly obvious penalty appeals turned down as Charlie Griffin was blocked from getting a shot off by Danny Andrew and later on Yemi Odubade was brought down.

Whilst the fans appealed Wilson wasted another chance, sending a shot over the bar and into the Boro fans. The introduction of Junior Smikle helped the Robins maintain possession in areas where in the first half Stevenage would have kept them at bay.

It was virtually the first proper opportunity Cheltenham managed to create when Shaun Jeffers put in a first time cross from the right wing which floated to the back post and onto the head of the advancing Wesley Thomas, who had evaded Ronnie Henry to knock a downward header past Day and into the net.

Westley immediately decided to replace Sills with Winn, going for a change of tactic towards finding crosses and running with the ball instead of using a target man.

This almost paid off when a minute later the winger went on a rampaging run and flicked in a diagonal cross from the left. The stretching Yemi Odubade’s header was glanced perfectly towards the bottom corner before Brown pulled off another flying save to palm the ball past the post.

That proved to be the closest Boro came to getting back to level terms as Westley threw on Sinclair and then Vincenti for Byrom and Odubade, but neither made much of an impact as chances proved hard to muster.

Frustration started to come through as Boro looked consigned to defeat, and to compound Stevenage’s feeling of injustice at the result, Lawrie Wilson received two quick-fire yellow cards, the second of which for being too strong in a shoulder barge with Wes Thomas.

Hopefully lessons will be learned and Boro’s customary slow start will pick up soon.

The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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