Stevenage – what IS Steven’s Age?
Under Dino Maamria, Stevenage Borough has enjoyed a decent start to the new season. Although the team frittered away a two-goal advantage to only draw with newly-promoted Tranmere at home in their first game; they won 1-3 at Crawley in their last league outing a week ago. They lost to a Championship side – Norwich City – during the week by the same score (which they shared with today’s opponents, who were also defeated in the League Cup by a club in the same division as Norwich). But there’s no disgrace to either side in being beaten by Championship clubs.
How we Morecambe fans envy the team from Hertfordshire. The Boro website points out that it is 125 days since the Shrimps last scored a league goal. It sounds a long time but this misleading statistic ignores the fact that very little football has been played during this period. A more meaningful fact, however, is that Jim Bentley’s team hasn’t registered a strike in their last six League Two games and have lost both of the two played so far this season. But – although the Shrimps fell at the first hurdle at Preston in the League Cup last Tuesday, they at least managed to find the back of the net for a welcome change. The question today was – could the team at the bottom of the EFL end their goal drought in the league?
The omens were not promising: in ten previous meetings, Morecambe have only won once against Stevenage; lost five times and drawn the rest. So not only current form but previous history would have to be stood on its head if the team from Lancashire was going to be able to go home with even a single point at the end of today’s encounter.
The weather was dry but overcast at the Lamex Stadium as the game kicked-off. Little of note happened during the early stages as both teams cancelled each other out. It was a quarter of an hour before anyone had a shot on target – on this occasion, Kurtis Guthrie tried his luck from a long way out but his shot was straight at Barry Roche, who saved easily. Scott Cuthbert headed narrowly wide after about half an hour but the best chance of the half so far fell to Kevin Ellison after 37 minutes: he looked certain to score but Boro keeper Paul Farman pulled off a tremendous save low to his left to keep the ball out of his net. It looked as if the first period was destined to be goal-less but – with forty-four minutes on the clock – midfielder Michael Timlin picked up the ball on the edge of the Morecambe box and curled a sublime shot into the top right hand corner of Big Baz’s net to put Stevenage one goal to the good. It was a tremendous effort out of keeping with the quality of the rest of the game and it gave Morecambe’s huge goalkeeper no chance at all of saving it. So it turned-out to be a disappointing end to a half where the visitors had held their own most of the time. The question was – would the disappointment further dent the Shrimps’ collectively fragile confidence during the second half? Or would the setback serve to actually galvanise the team to get back into the game?
The visitors came out and actually started to dominate the match but yet again without creating any clear chances. They were unlucky, early doors, though when Josef Yarney clearly had his shirt pulled from a corner but Referee Matt Donohue gave nothing. With the match an hour old, Kev had another good chance but blazed his left-footed shot high and wide of the target when well placed. Although the visitors continued to dominate the game, Johnny Hunt had a chance on the counter-attack for the hosts after 68 minutes but missed the goal with a speculative shot from the edge of the penalty box. Jim Bentley shuffled his pack with fifteen minutes or so left with a triple substitution. If anything, however, Morecambe lost momentum after the changes and Stevenage started to actually get on top again. Timlin slung a cross over in the seventy-fourth minute which Guthrie headed back across the goal from the far stick but the Shrimps’ defence managed to get to it first. Boro came close again after 81 minutes when, from a corner, ping-pong ensued in the opposition’s penalty area but the ball finally went harmlessly wide. Substitute Tutte had a shot which missed for the visitors before the end but the match ended with Timlin’s superb strike the decisive moment of the game.
Stevenage – eighth in the League Two table before the start of the match – found themselves in third place at the end of it. Morecambe remain rooted to the bottom with no points after three games, nine goals conceded and not even one scored. That’s seven league games now since the Shrimps managed to put the ball in the net and Jim Bentley’s biggest worry must be where any goals are going to come from. It’s still early days and – with both Cheltenham and Macclesfield also pointless at this stage of the campaign – no need to panic quite yet.
But at least fans could drown their sorrows more cheaply after the game: Stevenage have introduced a `Winner’s Hour’ after the game in their Broadhill Suite: all pints just a pound. I’ll have a couple to be going on with, please….
Oh – and by the way – Steve Old’s age is 32; he will be 33 on February 17th next…
Stevenage: 1 Paul Farman; 2 Luther Wildin (Y); 5 Scott Cuthbert; 31 Ben Nugent; 3 Johnny Hunt; 8 Joel Byrom; 4 Michael Timlin; 7 Jimmy Ball (14 James Ferry 64 mins); 11 Emmanuel Sonupe (10 Ben Kennedy 67 mins); 28 Kurtis Guthrie; 9 Alex Revell (C).
Subs not used: 27 Timothy Dieng; 6 Mark McKee; 22 Alex Reid; 25 Ronnie Henry; 30 Luke Wilkinson.
Morecambe : 1 Barry Roche (C); 2 Zak Mills; 3 Luke Conlan; 5 Steven Old; 8 Andy Fleming (Y) (6 Andrew Tutte 74 mins); 14 Josef Yarney (Y); 15 Aaron Wildig; 17 Liam Mandeville; 9 Vadaine Oliver (12 Jason Oswell 74 mins); 28 A-Jay Leitch-Smith; 11 Kevin Ellison (18 Rhys Oates 74 mins).
Subs not used: 21 Mark Halstead; 27 Jordan Cranston; 4 Alex Kenyon; 25 Ben Hedley.
Ref: Matt Donohue.