City took all three points after a determined performance in difficult conditions at the Lamex Stadium. Despite Stevenage having much of the possession in the second half, a first half penalty won and despatched by John Akinde was to be the difference for Danny Cowley’s side.
With the wind blowing across the pitch the game got underway as City kicked towards the open end of the Lamex Stadium as just under 1400 Imps’ supporters occupied the area behind Grant Smith’s goal. The conditions were playing a part right from the off as Seny Diang attempted to clear the ball only to see the ball holding up in the air and it wasn’t to clear the half way line but the danger was eventually cleared by the hosts.
John Akinde linked well with Harry Anderson who won the first corner of the game for The Imps and the ball was lofted into the danger area, Stevenage struggled to get any purchase on the hanging ball and former Boro favourite Tom Pett smashed a drive just over the top. Moments later though the perfect opportunity for City to get in the lead came from Akinde who was bundled over in the area and the referee pointed to the spot. The striker got to his feet to take the penalty and he despatched it confidently, low to Diang’s right and into the bottom corner.
The Imps looked hungry for more, combative in the challenge and purposeful in possession whilst the hosts struggled for any kind of rhythm to their play. Pett almost set Anderson free down the right but the ball was just despatched from danger before the City number seven did manage to free Bruno Andrade down the left and his cross was a tantalising one but just a fraction too far ahead of the City forwards.
Steve Seddon made inroads down the left for the hosts to put in a tempting ball which Terence Vancooten attacked but Harry Toffolo did just enough to keep out the marauding number 15 at the back post. Stevenage looked a little hesitant in possession whilst City were playing with confidence on the ball although the game had become a little fractured. Andrade hit a powerful curled cross to the back post which Anderson met with his head but couldn’t hit the target, then Akinde who was causing no end of problems for the home defence typified by a show of strength that took him away from his marker and ended with a hard shot into the side netting.
Stevenage crept forward further as the half progressed towards the break without forcing Smith into a save, the Imps’ ‘keeper showing his confidence coming and claiming a corner cleanly despite a number of home players crowding the box. The home side had a spell of pressure which highlighted the defensive solidity of City, keeping shape and soaking up pressure, resulting in Stevenage making an unforced error.
The action in the latter stages of the first half was mainly played out in the Imps’ half but nothing changed in terms of the threats to the City goal, Stevenage found no way past Eardley, Toffolo, Bostwick and Jason Shackell as the visitors went into the well-earned half time break a goal to the good.
Stevenage 0 The Imps 1
The second half presented a different test for The Imps with the wind now blowing in their faces and the home side tried to make a quick start to proceedings as they won a free kick, right of centre around 25 yards from goal which Ben Kennedy hit on target but Smith was equal to it. Jamal Campbell-Ryce made himself a pest inside the box which resulted in a corner for the hosts that Shackell cleared, the pressure was kept on by Stevenage but Bostwick was to clear.
The Imps’ supporters tried their best to lift their players and Anderson got them off their feet following smart work from Akinde and Pett who read the flight of the ball after Eardley cut out the threat from Stevenage, Anderson winning a corner as his shot was blocked.
Andrade had a shot blocked from the set piece, then Pett followed it up with an effort of his own that went over the top.
Stevenage were to have their best spell of the game to this point, but the high pressing game of The Imps meant chances were limited for the home side. However, the pace was frenetic from the home side as sub Danny Newton tried to upset the City defence but Bostwick dominated his man, winning the ball as the home side tried to create from wide positions.
The threat of The Imps on the break was ever present despite Stevenage continuing to have plenty possession. Akinde got onto a high ball as Anderson was on the overlap, the striker winning his aerial battle with Ben Nugent to set Anderson free and despite three players in close attendance he managed to get a shot away but it hammered just the wrong side of the upright and into the side netting.
O’Connor and Lee Frecklington were busy in midfield trying to break play and limit the home side’s chances of finding space and creating chances and it was Scott Wharton, on as a sub, who almost played the pass of the game after striding out of the City defence he looked up and curled the ball round the back of the home defence but Diang just beat Akinde to the ball.
Emmanuel Sonope smashed a low effort into the side netting with Smith covering his near post before Akinde left the field to a tremendous reception following a very hard working performance with just under ten minutes remaining. The hosts continued their pursuit of the equaliser as Nugent met a Joel Byrom free kick inside the City area, but the big defender couldn’t get much purchase on the goalbound effort but Smith had to be in the right place to save as their frustration in front of goal began to show.
In the final few minutes the game opened right up with play switching from one end to the other, challenges were full blooded and honest from both sides six minutes of stoppage time were announced.
Byrom hit a free kick from wide for Stevenage which evaded all in the box in a white shirt but Smith had to throw himself at it to tip away from goal, the ‘keeper then claimed a high ball into the box leaving a host of players in white shirts with their hands on their head. Everyone was in the Imps’ half as stoppage time ticked away but when the ball was hoisted into the box Bostwick leapt majestically to head clear the danger. The final whistle was met by a chorus of cheers from the visiting supporters, a big three points for The Imps.
Stevenage 0 The Imps 1
27 Seny DIANG
2 Luther JAMES-WILDIN
4 Michael TIMLIN
5 Scott CUTHBERT
8 Joel BYROM
9 Alex REVELL
10 Ben KENNEDY
12 Steve SEDDON
15 Terence VANCOOTEN
20 Jamal CAMPBELL-RYCE
31 Ben NUGENT
1 Paul FARMAN
3 John HUNT
11 Emmanuel SONOPE (74’ for Vancooten)
16 Arthur IONTTON
19 Danny NEWTON (54’ for Campbell-Ryce)
22 Alex REID
30 Luke WILKINSON
21 Grant SMITH
4 Michael O’CONNOR
5 Jason SHACKELL
7 Tom PETT
8 Lee FRECKLINGTON
11 Bruno ANDRADE
14 Harry TOFFOLO
16 Michael BOSTWICK
23 Neal EARDLEY
26 Harry ANDERSON
29 John AKINDE
24 Sam SLOCOMBE
2 Kellan GORDON
6 Scott WHARTON (67’ for Toffolo)
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Matt GREEN (81’ for Akinde)
17 Shay McCARTAN (70’ for Andrade)
18 Bernard MENSAH
Goal: Akinde 11’
Booked: Akinde 45’
Referee: Lee Collins
Assistants: Steven Plane & Marvyn Amphlett
4th Official: Anthony Da Costa
Attendance: 3,552 (1,352 Imps' supporters)