OK – so it’s almost time to go again; the 2022-3 League Two season opening up with a trip to sigh Tranmere Rovers. It’s a chance, however, to get among our most memorable opening day fixtures. And it’s irritatingly fair to say that we’ve not had many amazing curtain-raisers since we came up to the Football League. In fact, we’ve won just two in 12 outings on the first day of term since 2010 – the most recent of which, admittedly, was last year against Barrrrah.
So, are we just slow on the ol’ uptake?
Overall, there are 42 opening days for us to look back on. A grand total of 16 have went our way – particularly during the 1980s and 1990s. Meanwhile, there are also 13 draws and 13 losses to mull over too. Actually, as it goes, 10 of those 13 stalemates are this side of the millennium! Anyway, it is fair to say that some of those wins were grubby one-goal affairs, but course they were. Others, meanwhile, were reet stonkers. Like major thumbs up that following the Boro’ was the right call.
To get ourselves feeling like we can jump back in the saddle, we’ve taken a look at five of the best times it went right on the first night.
5 of the Best Opening Day Fixtures
All lined up? Let’s get things underway…
Stevenage Borough 3-0 Altrincham, 13 August 2005
Us being pants on the first day of term? It’s not that unusual, to be honest. Get past the 1-0 home win over Hartlepool that kicked off the 2014-5 campaign and it’ll be nearly another decade further back where we hit the ground running. After falling ever-so-slightly short in the 2004-5 Nationwide Conference playoff final, we were keen to get back into the groove and go one better. Alty were in the firing line on day one at BHW, and we tonked ’em.
It wasn’t quite the start of our march to the Football League, however. We missed out on the playoffs that season, before the curtain came down on GW’s first spell as gaffer. And to think it all looked good back in August…
Stevenage Borough 3-1 ON Chenecks, 16 August 1980
If there were any nerves ahead of our first-ever senior game, they didn’t show. This was the start of our journey from non-league to Football League. After joining the United Counties League, ON Chenecks provided the welcoming party. Would they rough us up and show us the harsh realities of bigger boy football? No. Danny Dance, Jim Daintree and Peter Gittings scored the goals that got the ball rolling. The 1980-1 campaign ended up being a triumph, and it was this match that set the scene.
Stevenage Borough 4-1 Bognor Regis Town, 22 August 1992
Oddly, the 1992-3 season was the only one in four that Cloughie’s Boro’ didn’t move up a division. Now a Diadora League Premier Division side after two straight promotions, were we able to leap up a level? After all, it was the highest we’d been to that point. Well, if the first match is anything to go by, it was a doddle. None more so than for a young player on debut by the name of Mark Smith; scoring a mere four goals in this emphatic win.
To be fair, Smudger was still playing up top at this point and his move to the back was still to come. And who there that day would’ve known that he’d go on to play 450+ times for us too? Boro’ finished 7th that term, but would lift the Premier Division title the following year; this making it the small matter of three promotions in four seasons.
Stevenage Borough 6-0 Halifax Town, 17 August 1996
Now, this is how you start a title defence. Boro’ were more than a little miffed at not being allowed into the League after lifting the 1995-6 GM Vauxhall Conference title. Victor Green even took the whole thing to court, but to no avail. We’d have to do it all over again. As a statement of intent, we made the perfect start. Halifax Town were simply blown away. And we didn’t even have Barry Hayles to call on; Mike Bignall and Corey Browne scoring two apiece in our biggest ever opening day win.
We didn’t win the title again, however. That had to wait another 13 years.
Stafford Rangers 0-3 Stevenage Borough, 20 August 1994
It’s the only away day on our list, which probably says a lot about how we do on the road at the start of the season. The 1994-5 campaign was our first in the Conference. After an epic rise up the pyramid, it was time to catch breath. But we were now in the same pond as some pretty big non-league fish (yoo-hoo Woking).
Going into the game at Stafford, our preparations hadn’t been great. As reigning Diadora League Premier Division champions, we’d played Chertsey Town in the Diadora Charity Shield on the Monday before. And we lost 5-0 at home. Nonetheless, we rocked up for our first Conference game and made it look like child’s play. Would it always be this easy at this level? Well, no. But as opening days go, you couldn’t fault it.
Wait, Why Didn’t You Include…
Someone, somewhere will always get riled by a list post. As a website that’s totally on board with your feelings and emotions, we hear you. And ignore you. And explain why we’ve left out some of your “favourites”…
Dagenham & Redbridge 3-1 Stevenage Borough, 14 August 2004
Just think if you’d been signed as an attacking midfielder looking to push a club on in their promotion drive. That’s simple enough, yeah? OK, now you can probably overlook the fact you’re on the bench for the first game of the season. Fine. But you’ll be reading back over your contract when you get home after a match in which the gaffer brings you on for your debut… in goal. Ritchie Hanlon was pretty helpless as GW’s policy of not naming a back-up stopper came a cropper in Dagnum.
Wrexham 5-0 Stevenage Borough, 09 August 2008
It’s fair to say there were some, hmm, doubts about the return of GW in 2008. So, it was really important we got off to a flyer when we went to North Wales for the opening day of the 2008-9 campaign. Alas, it went lady parts up in some style as Boro’ ended up on the wrong side of a battering despite an encouraging first hour. It was not pretty. Still, ended the season with a playoff place and a pot so not all bad eh?
Stevenage 0-2 Notts County, 08 August 2015
We’d rather forget that Teddy Sheringham was ever gaffer in the first place, to be honest.