It’s been only a week since my last away day, and I’m back again. After an FA Cup game at Peterborough last week it was back to the league and away at Stevenage with Yeovil. I was supposed to go to the Lamex last season, but the game was put back to a Tuesday night because of international call-ups. International call-ups? In League 2? What is football coming to?
This was my first trip to Stevenage, and the first impressions weren’t exactly positive. While every other football club in England let you into the ground an hour and a half before kick off, Stevenage let us in with just an hour to go, after the fans coaches had arrived and with a number of fans queuing outside the turnstiles.
I’m afraid it wasn’t much better in the ground. In terms of food, there were no pies, which I know angered a number of supporters. Even then the rest of the food that they offered was just not good enough. The chips were substandard, and the portion that was provided was just too small. They bizarrely tried to get all the fans to stick to their allocated seats, even though there were hundreds of seats left over at the end. Then there is the matter that in the toilets, there were no sinks. I know money is tight for a lot of Football League clubs, but that does not mean that you can cut down on the basics like sinks, and replace them with hand gel, it’s just ridiculous.
The ground is, simply put, small. There’s not much to it. The capacity is under 7,000, and only about half of these can be seated. The away fans actually get one of the two seated stands, which is a bit weird, because almost every other club gives away fans the worst stand in the ground, though maybe it was because the rest of the stands had sinks.
In terms of the game, there isn’t that much to say with regards as action in the first 45 minutes. It was a very scrappy half which had few chances and was mainly a midfield battle. Yeovil ‘keeper Artur Krysiak did well to deny a powerful effort from Charlie Lee from long range, and Ben Kennedy’s volley was ruled out for offside, even though replays show he may have been on. The best chance of the half though fell to Yeovil, when Matt Dolan’s scuffed shot fell to Liam Shephard 12 yards out, who’s shot was well saved by Jamie Jones in the Stevenage goal.
The deadlock was broken just minutes after the half time break though when Yeovil broke quickly, and Tom Eaves played in Ryan Hedges, who cut in on his left foot and finished well at the near post. In the fifteen minutes or so after the goal, the Glovers probably should have doubled their lead. Otis Khan created a couple of good positions for himself, but seemed hesitant when it came to getting his shot away. Eaves’ impressive flick at the near post was well saved by Jones’ who overall had a pretty good game.
Yeovil were made to pay for their failures to add to their lead, and twenty minutes later were back level, when Kennedy cut inside from the right hand side and trickled a shot into the far corner, with the ball bursting through a hole in the net. Stevenage subsequently sent a man armed with masking tape to fix the net, which in a way summed up the state of the ground. Yeovil left-back Nathan Smith was probably at fault for the goal, when he failed to close down Kennedy on the wing. Smith though looked like Ashley Cole compared to Bevis Mugabi on the other side, who had an absolute shocker all day long.
Both sides continued to create opportunities, and with both defences looking a bit unsure, it seemed inevitable that there would be another goal before the game was up. It was Stevenage who got that goal four minutes from the end, and it was very similar to the first one. Kennedy once again picked up the ball out wide, and once again wasn’t closed down quick enough, this time by either Matt Dolan or Matt Butcher, before cleverly chipping over Krysiak from the edge of the box. It was a fantastic finish from Kennedy, but Krysiak, another one who had a poor game, was way too far off his line.
Given the celebrations of the Stevenage bench when the goal went in, you’d have thought that would have been it, and it probably should have been. Yeovil seemed to lose their heads when the ball went in, and the ball must’ve gone out of the stadium at least twice off both Mugabi’s and Krysiak’s right foot. Darren Way sent on Ben Whitfield with just two minutes of normal time left, and it paid off deep into injury time. As the game entered the fifth minute of injury time, Whitfield picked up a pass from fellow substitute Francois Zoko, whose volley from the corner of the area took a huge deflection and floated over Jones and into the far corner. Stevenage fans will say that the fourth official signalled for just four minutes of added time, but the ball spent a lot of that four minutes out of play.
Given how the whole match was played out, a point was probably the right result, though both teams will go away thinking that they should have taken all three. It was an excellent game to watch though, and it was it was a good advert for League 2 football.
Rating out of 10: Excellent game of football, but too many problems with the ground, mainly being the food and lack of sinks. 6/10