Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Stevenage 1 v 3 Wycombe Wanderers

Saturday 23rd August 2014
Football League Two
Broadhall Way, Stevenage
Admission: £18.00
Programme: £3.00 
Attendance: 2,832
Match Rating: 4

Today I decided to tick off another of the 92, the easiest one for me left to do, taking me up to 70. There promised to be a decent atmosphere at this game, with a sizeable away contingent expected to make the 40 odd mile north eastwards around the M25.

Broadhall Way is about a 20 minute walk southwards from Stevenage train station, and the ground proved to be quite a pleasant surprise, given that everything else in Stevenage is not pleasing on the eye and the ground is out of town next to a busy road. I purchased my ticket in advance online to save £3.00 and chose to stand on the East Terrace. It was a very pleasant change to be given the choice to stand in the Football League along a length. Along the opposite length is an all-seater stand of about ten rows, whilst a similar looking and sized stand with a couple more rows housing the away fans, is behind one of the goals. Behind the other goal is terracing, with a stand from a corner to the centre of the goal, and a small number of uncovered terrace steps towards the other corner. Ignoring that area, which is planned to be redeveloped at some stage, it's a very pleasant, neat and tidy ground, perfectly sized for the club's support, and some trees behind the stands enhance the pleasant feel a little more. The 66 page programme with glossy hardened cover was an interesting read, containing everything expected of a Football League programme.

Both clubs will be looking for much better seasons this time around. Stevenage suffered their first relegation since 1988, whilst Wycombe only just escaped relegation to non-league by the skin of their teeth, after occupying a relegation berth on the final day but survived with a 3-0 win while Bristol Rovers lost. Stevenage won their opening home game this season, but then lost away at Southend and drew at Plymouth. They went out of the League Cup, losing 0-1 at home to Watford. Wycombe had a great start to their season, winning at Newport 0-2 and then beating Carlisle 3-1 at home, although in midweek they lost 0-2 at home to Cranmer and they also lost to Millwall in the League Cup.

On an intermittently warm and sunny afternoon, there certainly wasn't much of the beautiful game played here today, as both teams always looked keen to launch the ball forward are every opportunity. Not that this was any surprise with Graham Westley in charge of the home side, but at least the launches were generally well aimed. The match started in a competitive fashion, end to end and with plenty of full blooded challenges going in. Stevenage looked slightly the more threatening, Charlie Lee rattling the woodwork with a vicious shot from an angle on eight minutes, and they took the lead on 32 minutes with a slightly controversial goal. Darius Charles ran on to a flick on to race towards goal, Wycombe's keeper Matt Ingram came racing out of his area, the two players collided heavily but Charles managed to stagger to his feet and curl the ball into the unguarded net from long range. Their lead lasted just eight minutes though - four minutes if one excludes the time Ingram received treatment for - when Wycombe equalised with a fabulous goal. Paul Hayes chested down a ball at the edge of the box, flicked the ball over a defender and thumped the ball on the half volley across the keeper and into the net. A goal of excellent control and precision from the former Charlton striker. They went into the lead a minute before the interval with a cleverly worked free kick routine. It appeared that the three players hovering over the ball made a mess of it when they all ran over the ball, but Sam Wood then whipped in a cross goalwards and Peter Murphy stabbed the ball home from a couple of yards with the defence bamboozled.

Stevenage dominated the second half with plenty of possession but rarely looked likely to score and were not helped by some increasingly bizarre and erratic decisions by the referee. Wycombe eventually sealed the three points in the final minute when Matt McClure, who had only just entered the game from the subs bench, ran onto a pass by fellow sub Joe Lewis, knocked the ball to the side of keeper Sam Beasant (Dave Beasant's son) who had raced out of his area, and McClure slotted into an empty net. It was a win they just about deserved, although Stevenage could have got at least a point with a more clinical approach. This was an entertaining game, with a good atmosphere generated that was certainly helped by a vocal travelling support. Although Wycombe look likely to have a much better season than last, mid table mediocrity seems the most likely outcome for both clubs this season.

Video highlights of this match can be found here

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