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Match Report: Stevenage 0-1 Leyton Orient (Stevenage Fan's Perspective)

Wednesday 4th January 2012
A single goal from Lee Cook was enough to give Leyton Orient all three points and condemn Stevenage to their first defeat in 13 games.  It was a game that will be remembered more for its ill temper rather than for the calibre of football on display with both teams reduced to ten men. The fractious display reflected the quality of the game; Stevenage looked lacklustre and tired, unable to mount any meaningful response to Lee Cook's superb 14th minute strike, failing to find a shot on target throughout the 90 minutes. Leyton Orient dominated much of the first half and despite being reduced to ten men just before the interval they rarely looked troubled by a somnolent home side, usually so motivated.

Stevenage only really began to show urgency with ten minutes left on the clock by which time they were a player short with substitute Chuks Aneke seeing red after a high challenge on Terrel Forbes.  Leyton Orient held on to take the points and end Stevenage's impressive unbeaten run.

The decisive moment in the game came on the quarter hour mark when Stevenage failed to clear their lines properly from a Marc Laird cross. The ball fell to Cook on the edge of the area and his 20 yard strike was sent curling into the top corner.

Stevenage failed to stamp any authority onto the game and it was Leyton Orient who looked the stronger team throughout the first period. Indeed, they could have added a second ten minutes later when the impressive Laird attempted an audacious over-head kick from ten yards, but the ball fell kindly to Chris Day in the Stevenage goal.

Stevenage's only real chance of the first half came on the half hour mark when Beardsley found himself with space to shoot inside the box. His finish was poor and the ball sailed wide.

With moments left of the first half, Stevenage were given a lifeline back into the match when referee Darren Sheldrake deemed Ben Chorley's challenge on Chris Beardsely worthy of a red card. The two players had competed for a long throw and Chorley forcefully pulled Beardsley to the ground.  It was an incident that warranted little more than a caution but after consultation with the assistant referee and fourth official, Sheldrake produced a red card, much to the dismay of Chrorley and his team-mates.

Neither the numerical advantage nor the introduction of Arsenal loanees Luke Freeman and Chuks Aneke could inspire Stevenage to a response. Indeed Aneke  lasted only eight minutes on the pitch after his high challenge on TerrelForbes was deemed worthy of a straight red. There was little intent to harm and the challenge was naïve rather than violent, but dangerous nonetheless, and Stevenage can have few complaints about the decision.

Orient could have settled the game with five minutes remaining when Leon McSweeney's cross found Dave Mooney but the striker was denied by a fantastic save from Day.

Stevenage increased the pressure in the final few minutes with the introduction of Don Cowan for Ronnie Henry but Orient defended resolutely and calmly. In the closing moments of the game Michael Bostwick came close with a long range effort after Luke Freeman's impressive run but his shot failed to trouble Butcher, clearing his crossbar.

The defeat was disappointing for the performance as much as a result that ended a 13 match unbeaten run in what Graham Westley described as an “uncharacteristic day for us” and a “tired performance.” Despite the defeat, Stevenage still occupy the final play-off spot in sixth position and if they want to stake a realistic ambition to remain there for the end of season, much depends on how they react to defeat. As mentioned before, Westley and his team have shown they have the ability to deal with poor form but they face a difficult FA cup tie away at Reading this week. The last time they suffered defeat, they suffered five consecutively and if Stevenage do want to push for a play off position they will need to turn mediocre performances around quickly.

That is not to be critical of a team that has achieved much over the last two seasons; they have exceeded the expectations of everyone but Westley himself, you would expect and they have shown themselves once again to be a well organised and professional unit.  They have the second best defensive record in League One. Only two teams in the Football League have conceded fewer goals away from home than Stevenage this season. Those teams are Liverpool and Manchester United.

Stevenage started 2011 in similar fashion to 2012 with a 1-0 defeat to Gillingham. Then, they languished 17th in League Two. Following that defeat, they picked themselves up to win 29 of the following 59 games in all competitions and gained promotion to League One. If they can replicate a similar feat in the first half of 2012 and continue to prove themselves at this level, it would not be unthinkable to see them in the play-offs in May fighting for a place in the Championship.

Stevenage: Day; Henry (Cowan 80), Ashton, Roberts, Laird; Wilson, Bostwick, Byrom, Shroot (Freeman 46); Beardsley, Harrison (Aneke 67). Unused substitutes : Julian (GK), Edwards

Booked: Beardsley

Sent off: Aneke

Leyton Orient: Butcher; Forbes, Cuthbert, Chorley, Chicksen; McSweeney, Spring, Dawson, Cook (Lisbie 62); Laird; Mooney (Porter 88). Unused substitutes : Cox, Cureton, Cestor

Goal: Cook, 15

Booked: Spring, McSweeney, Mooney. Lisbie

Sent off: Chorley

Referee: Darren Sheldrake

Attendance: 5,351 (1,240 away)
Paul Lamey

Total articles: 8

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