Boro’s Fortunes: A Complete Switcharoo…


By Pete H

Life is good at the moment, isn’t it. We sit top of the tree after 13 games; more than a quarter of the campaign under our belt. Sure, you’re free to argue that Leyton Orient can reclaim that honour by virtue of their game in hand. But points on the board, dear reader. There is no substitute for it. And anyone who had the pleasure of watching us over the past four years will know that what we’re seeing here is a total about-turn in Boro’s fortunes. Go back 12 months and Elliott List’s brace had just earned us a 2-2 draw at home to Exeter City. It took us to four games unbeaten in all competitions; lifting us to the dizzying heights of 13th in the process. Now, however, our two-goal home victory against Swindon has us looking down from on high at the rest of the division.

So, what’s changed? How dramatic has the change been? And can we still learn something from the lessons of one year ago?

So, what's changed? How dramatic has the change been? And can we still learn something from the lessons of one year ago?

2022: Slow start, strong finish?

Looking at some of the numbers, one thing that jumps out is the transformation in Boro’s fortunes across 2022 as a calendar year. Under Paul Tisdale, we kicked things off with defeat at FGR on New Year’s Day. But the rest of January was alright; serving up three wins and two draws. February, however, saw our form tumble. We failed to win any of the next nine before Tisdale was booted out in mid-March. When you add it all up, then, our record for 2022 was in poor shape from the first 15 games:

  • Goal difference: -7
  • Win rate: 20%
  • Points per Game: 0.93
  • Goals per Game: 1.13

We’d endured some turgid nonsense in 2019, 2020, and 2021… and it was continuing into 2022 with that record. Our PPG at that point was third-lowest for any calendar year. Mind you, it was comfortably above the 0.69 achieved in 2020. Our GPG, meanwhile, was above one. It was, at least, a step up from the previous three years in which we’d failed to average one goal per game. You’ll also see 2013 creeping into the list of “worst Boro’ years too”. The good news for Boro’ at this point of 2022, however, was that Tisdale was out and there was still a lot of football to come. And, by the end of the season, the new regime had started to repair things.

In the nine games that followed Tisdale’s departure, things looked like this:

  • Goal difference: +2
  • Win rate: 44.4%
  • Points per Game: 1.44
  • Goals per Game: 1.33

It’s not world-beating, but it started to drag 2022 up from the gutter. And it meant that, by the end of the season, our record for 2022 was:

  • Goal difference: -5
  • Win rate: 29.2%
  • Points per Game: 1.13
  • Goals per Game: 1.21

It still left 2022 in among the stragglers as far as calendar year showings go. But the uplift in Boro’s fortunes from the start of this term to where we currently find ourselves midway to the festive period keeps things moving in the right direction. Here’s where we now stand:

  • Goal difference: +10
  • Win rate: 51.2%
  • Points per Game: 1.57
  • Goals per Game: 1.37

Now, ain’t that dramatic? There are currently only seven calendar years in which our PPG was better. In fact, all seven of those saw us pick up at least two points per game. That said, we’re at that stage in the current campaign – which says a lot about why 2022 is starting to take flight. Goals per Game isn’t as impressive when compared with other years. But you can argue quite legitimately that points are the metric to judge things by. And in terms of overall points tally, 2022 is moving up with each new win; moving above 2014 and 1988 with victory over Swindon. One more win and our points tally for 2022 will be greater than 2000, 2001, and 2018 – and level with 1984.

The Steve Evans effect

You might not like the man, but there's little doubt that Steve Evans the manager brought with him a formidable track record

There are no clues for guessing who the architect for this reversal in Boro’s fortunes is. The revival started soon after Steve Evans arrived at the Lamex. And he is wasting no time in nestling himself among some of the iconic figures to have held the managerial hot seat here.

Bear in mind that Mr Evans came to us with Boro’ in real trouble. The threat of the drop was, once again, far too real for comfort. And yet he is now 26 games into his career with us; 18 of which have been victories. That puts him on a win rate of 69% for his time in charge. To put it into context for you, Paul Fairclough Mk I ended his tenure with a win rate of 57% and GW MK II left for Preston NE off the back of a win rate of 54%. You can see how other Stevenage managers compare – unless you’re Paul Tisdale or Teddy Sheringham.

Six more matches will pull Evans level with Peter the Tailor in terms of games played. We could lose each one and Evans’ win rate will still be a swaggering 56%, which compares with Taylor’s 44%. Evans also already has more wins to his name than Taylor; not to mention Wayne Turner, John Bailey, and former England and Manchester United striker Teddy Sheringham. We’d also bring Mark Sampson into the mix, but he only managed 19 games and the direct comparison is not really there to be made.

It’s no shock either that Evans’ 44-point haul to date looks a lot more favourable than the names mentioned in these dispatches.

What can we learn from 2021?

Of course, it’s a pleasant ride to be enjoying at the moment. And there’s no reason to suggest that it’ll be coming to an end any time soon. Mind you, we do have Northampton Town very soon and Boro’s fortunes against them are only marginally better than San Marino’s record on the international football scene. So, is there anything from 12 months ago that serves as a warning or keeps our focus sharp?

Well, after that draw with Exeter City, Boro’s form took a mahoosive nosedive going into November. Our next result was our humiliating 3-0 defeat at Oldham Athletic. We didn’t score in (or win) any of the next four outings – even if one of them was a goalless draw at home to the side we contend with for top spot at the moment, Leyton Orient. The Papa Don’t Preach Trophy and FA Cup gave us glimmers of hope as we beat Cambridge United and MK Dons respectively. But our return to league action saw us lose indoors against Mansfield Town. And this was a result that ultimately cost Alex Revell his job as boss; Boro’ dropping into the bottom four.

We aren’t suggesting that we’ll suffer a similar fate in the coming weeks. It is, however, a reminder that form is temporary – and anything is possible. Mind you, we can also hope the class we’ve seen from this Boro’ side since the opening day of the season is permanent. If it is, we can beat just about anyone in this division. And we hope that includes the Cobblers in under a fortnight’s time.

First, Gillingham away.

Keep it Boro’!

All photos: Stevenage FC/Jim Steele Photography

Leave a comment