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Match Report: Sheffield Wednesday 0-1 Stevenage (Stevenage Fan’s Perspective)

Stevenage have now taken a remarkable 15 points of a possible 21 from the top five teams in League One and not even a two week break seems to be able to put a freeze on their excellent run of form.

Whilst confirming the full six points over the Owls this season, the 1-0 win away at Hillsborough was far from the performance that saw a 5-1 home win back in September – the single goal came from a Stevenage set piece which was bundled over the line by Scott Laird just before half time.

It was only Gary Smith’s second game in charge but it will give him some indication of why this team have only lost once in their last 20 matches; they are well organised, difficult to break down and have an incredible ability to hold onto a lead.

Wednesday will be disappointed not to have come away with at least a point; in the second half the Sheffield side moved forward with persistent pressure but the Stevenage defence and Chris Day in the Stevenage goal repelled them.

Despite Day being forced into action after just three minutes, the first half was relatively uninspiring. Chris O’Grady’s fierce effort from distance was matched by a fine save by Day.

Wednesday were the more attacking side and used the ball better than their opponents but they were unable to break down the Stevenage back line and were again forced into shooting from distance to trouble the ‘Boro goalkeeper; Jermaine Johnson’s dipping long range effort was turned over the bar well by Day.

As the first half came to a close, Stevenage  had few noteworthy chances on goal, themselves restricted to two ranged efforts from Michael Bostwick, which did little to trouble Stephen Bywater in the Wednesday goal.

However, it was a set piece at the end of the first half that led to Stevenage’s goal. Joel Byrom’s corner was looped to the back post and onto the head of Chris Beardsley, whose header found it’s way in. Although Scott Laird was judged to have got the final touch as the ball crossed the line.

The second half was a different affair entirely; Wednesday attacked with force and intent.  Gary Madine should have equalised but he failed to connect with a fine ball across the box from Johnson who had done well down the left to deliver.

Soon after, they saw a header from a cross wrong foot Day and come back off the post. Stevenage, whilst looking nervy maintained their shape and frustrated Wednesday who were unable to break them down and struggled to make chances.

Day was called into action again though and again he made a fantastic save to prevent an equaliser, albeit with his face. O’Grady’s fired  ball across goal was met by the toe of David Prutton but Day blocked and the ball was cleared.

Stevenage held on and the victory puts them just two points off MK Dons in fifth with a game in hand. That next game however is against league leaders Charlton, who will be keen to avenge the 1-0 defeat earlier in the season.

‘Boro, though, will not make it easy and they are no longer underdogs in this league. They have proved consistently that they are a match for League One and the teams at the top can no longer underestimate them.

Before that match, they host Tottenham Hotspur in the FA cup and whilst certainly underdogs, it would be casual to write off Stevenage’s hopes. It is the big games that motivate them the most.

This they have shown not only with last season’s FA cup victory against Newcastle but with the two victories over Sheffield Wednesday against Charlton, MK Dons, Sheffield United and Reading. Tottenham will find themselves up against a well drilled and well prepared Stevenage side looking for another FA cup scalp to add to their collection.

Whilst they undoubtedly have the quality to see this tie through, any overconfidence form the Premier League side may well be punished and Sunday’s rested players might just be needed for an FA cup fifth round replay at White Hart Lane.

About Paul Lamey

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