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Brian Caffarey - 6th April 2008

7.45pm on Tuesday 8 April 2008

Although the rivalry between the two clubs isn?t quite as intense as it was ? largely because the two outfits tend to find themselves at opposite ends of the table these days! ? this is nevertheless a game that all Cards fans relish. Boro?s play-off place isn?t yet secure, so there is every incentive for the Cards to put a spoke in their wheel on Tuesday evening! In any event, it would be a great tonic, as the season draws to an end, to put one over our Hertfordshire ?friends? once more, especially if this might be our last meeting for a while.


The Cards will have to play a lot better than they have done in their last few games if they are going to derail Boro, though. A point at Trophy finalists, Ebbsfleet, on Saturday afternoon might not look too bad on paper but, in truth, it was much more than we deserved from a lacklustre performance in which we were outplayed and outpassed in midfield and offered almost nothing up front until Gez Sole?s injury-time strike. The Cards? cause won?t be helped by Matt Pattison?s absence again, serving the second of his two-match suspension for far too many unnecessary bookings.


In the summer Mark Stimson ? now succeeded by Peter Taylor, of course ? released six players from his FA Trophy-winning side, including Jamie Slabber, Mark Beard and Tony Thorpe. Subsequently Jon Nurse moved to Dagenham and Redbridge and reserve keeper Danny Potter signed for Cambridge United.
Some pretty impressive-looking signings followed, confirming the bookies? view that Stevenage were one of the favourites for the title. Defender Mark Arber joined from Peterborough United; he was part of Barnet?s Conference-winning side but has now been loaned to Dagenham and Redbridge. Midfielder John Martin arrived from Grays Athletic, where he played under Stimson. Another midfielder, Mark Molesley, was snapped up from Aldershot Town. Attacking options were strengthened with the capture of Ollie Allen, 20 year-old son of former Spurs favourite, Clive, and Tes Bramble, arriving from Stockport but previously with Southend, where he notched up 43 goals in some 150 appearances. Stimson also signed a few promising youngsters: winger Alistair John, a former Charlton trainee, who was out for a long spell following a stabbing incident outside his home; James Russell, a 19 year-old keeper released by Chelsea, now loaned to Crawley; Jamie Eames, a 17 year-old winger from Norwich; and Jerome Anderson, an 18 year-old forward from Oxford United (now on loan to Brackley).

Stimson?s acrimonious departure for Gillingham and his replacement by Peter Taylor sparked wholesale squad changes. John Nutter and Adam Miller joined Gillingham on loan pending a permanent move, whilst Santos Gaia joined Grays. Taylor then signed Tyrone Berry, a 20 year-old winger, formerly with Rushden and Diamonds and Crawley; Freddie Murray, a defender previously with Stafford, Northampton and Cambridge; Gavin Grant, a striker on loan from Millwall; Peter Vincenti, midfielder, also from Millwall; Scott Laird, 19 year-old defender from Plymouth; Ashley Westwood, a defender from Chester City with over 270 League appearances and now captain; Tommy Smith, an England U17 central defender from Ipswich Town; Isiah Rankin, a much-travelled striker; Sammy Moore, a midfielder/attacker on loan from Ipswich Town; Callum Willock, a striker from Port Vale, who has also appeared for Brentford and Peterborough United; Scott Mitchell, a midfielder on loan from Peterborough; and Anthony Mason, a 19 year-old striker from Plymouth.

When you add in the likes of Alan Julian in goal, Ronnie Henry and ex-Card Luke Oliver at the back and Steve Morison and the exciting Mitchell Cole up front, you get a good idea of the strength of Boro?s squad.


Stevenage have often been let down in the past by a slow start to the season. Stimson brought the players back early to counter this and must have been disappointed to see his side lose their opening game 2-1 at Crawley. But Boro then went on a fantastic run, winning eight and drawing one of their next nine games, scoring 20 goals and conceding only one in the process. They now lie in 4th place, only two points clear of Burton Albion in 6th place, who have a game in hand. Saturday?s 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Exeter City, now in 5th place, helped to make the race for the promotion play-offs even more of a nail-biting affair. Stevenage?s away record in the league reads: won 9, drawn 2, lost 9, with 31 goals scored and 26 conceded. Boro were hammered 4-0 away by Exeter City in the First Round of the FA Cup, having beaten Salisbury City in the previous round. In the FA Trophy Boro, last year?s winners, were high profile casualties, going down 2-1 at Dorchester Town to an injury-time penalty. In the Setanta Shield, of course, Boro went out to the Cards.


Stevenage Borough 3 Woking 2
Woking 0 Stevenage Borough 1

It is slightly worrying to note that both teams seem to relish playing each other away from home. Stevenage have an excellent record at Kingfield in the league and managed to do the double over us last season. In the away game in October we started badly, going a goal down in five minutes as Dwayne Lee headed home a Steve Guppy cross. Ten minutes later Karl Murray equalised from a free-kick whilst Alan Julian was still fussing about his ?wall?. Ollie Berquez had the satisfaction of scoring against his old club in the second half, netting coolly after Gez Sole?s shot had been blocked. But it all went wrong in the last five minutes. Karl Murray inexplicably handled in the box to make it 2-2 and then with the last move of the match Jon Nurse sent over a fantastic cross, which Craig Dobson buried, to make it 3-2 to Boro. Switch to Kingfield in March last year and a relegation-haunted Woking side made Alan Julian work for his money but succumbed to a solitary goal from Steve Morison in the first half.

Stevenage Borough 1 Woking 1
Woking 2 Stevenage Borough 1 (Setanta Shield)

As if to prove my point about both teams? predilection for playing at their opponents? ground, the Cards produced one of their best performances of this campaign in securing a 1-1 draw at Broadhall Way last October. A disastrous start saw Craig Dobson net for Boro in the 5th minute but, against the run of play, Matt Ruby?s header levelled things up for the Cards, who then proceeded to have at least their share of a pulsating encounter.

Home advantage did pay for the Cards, however, in the Setanta Shield just before Christmas. Liam Marum gave Woking the lead in the 50th minute, which was doubled by a brilliant Gez Sole free-kick. Ronnie Henry clawed one back for an under-strength Boro side in injury time.

Come on, you Cards!

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