Stevenage is one of those games which most Imps fans will be expecting a win, wrongly of course. It would be remiss to dismiss our opponents offhand in such a manner, but having done them twice last season they’re viewed, in some quarters, as the sort of team we should be beating.
Whilst I agree that any team with title aspirations ought to believe they can beat Stevenage, I would also point out MK Dons two weeks ago, losing there 3-2 in the dying minutes. This is not a side likely to roll over and die and under the wily management of Dino Maamria, they’re certain play off candidates. This will be a very tough game indeed.
It’s going to be intriguing as we both set up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, or variations of the same tactics, so there’s not going to be a serious overload of players in any particular area. It should be an expansive game, both sides looking to get down the flanks and attack but also solid through the middle.
I suspect the game will be won in the middle of the park this week, with Lee Frecklington a key player for us, if he’s fit. If we can get him and Shay behind John Akinde, then we’re going to pose a threat on the break. Remember, as the home side Stevenage should be looking to bring the game to us and that suits us a treat. Exeter served as fair warning as to what will happen if the home side get it wrong.
The two midfielders likely to be deployed by Maamria are Michael Timlin and Joel Byrom, a pair of traditional ball winners in the Michael O’Connor mould. They’ll be hoping to keep it tight and pick up the second balls, something that perhaps they’re not got spot on in recent weeks. It’ll be interesting to see how our second striker drops back to make a three-man midfield and if our opponents look to do the same.
In their last four League Two games, Stevenage have scored eight goals and conceded eleven, showing an element of danger at both ends, although in defence they’re a danger to themselves at times. They let in three against Swindon, four against Bury and of course, two against MK Dons. Their last two home games have both been 3-2 wins, which does show a resilience and never-say-die attitude.
0-0 tomorrow anyone?
They play a similar way to us, they’ll want to get the ball into Alex Revell by fairs means or foul, so on the diagonal or into feet. Revell is a great player at this level, well into his thirties but still strong and able to hold up play. he’ll bag a goal or two as well and my sources tell me we wanted him last January but couldn’t convince him to move away from home. Usually, Danny Newton is the player they want on the overlap, but he’s doubtful for tomorrow which would be good news. In his place, Ben Kennedy will likely play, one of the few footballers I’ve ever raised a glass to for his last-minute winner against the Dons. Don’t ruin it now Ben!
It’ll be a close game and I suspect the odd goal will win it. We’ve needed to tighten up at the back in recent weeks and the battle between Revell and either Bostwick or Shackell will be fascinating to see. There’s bound to be an elbow or two flying about as none of those players will want to lose out to the other but I would suggest it’ll be a fair battle, as well as a bruising one.
There’s also been a lot of focus on Tom Pett and Paul Farman, two players who swapped club in 2018 and will doubtless be looking forward to saying hello to a few familiar faces. I won’t ever criticise Farman for his wonderful services to the club, but don’t expect him to be in goal tomorrow, he picked up an injury and hasn’t been able to force himself back into the side. I believe there’s a question mark over whether Pett starts, given the type of midfielders Stevenage have I fancy a Frecklington and O’Connor pairing with McCartan dropping deep when required.
Past meetings mean very little, but we’re finely balanced at two wins each in league action, with our FA Cup win the difference between the two sides. This is only our third trip to Broadhall Way, we won there last year with ten men courtesy of Ollie Palmer, they beat us 2-1 in March 2011 after Ashley Grimes had given us the lead. Interestingly, we’ve had a penalty on both occasions.
What price on one tomorrow?