Friday Night Lights?

By Pete H

Hello, hello – what’s all this? A Friday night outing for the Boro’? To what do we owe this pleasure? Well – we probably weren’t listening at the start there when it was all announced. But we imagine the Qatar 2022 World Cup has something to do with it. And we do wish they’d stop scheduling these minor tournaments midway through a season when all eyes are (rightly) on Sky Bet League Two. Anyway, Barrow are coming down to get our weekend started a few hours early. We’re sure they were happy to have such a long trek for an evening fixture.

Mind you, it’s not as if they have work the next day #GiulianoLOLzioli.

So, what inspired us to get our Bluetooth keyboard out? To be honest, it got us thinking. Friday night is not a usual Boro’ fixture time. At the same time, this isn’t the first time we’ve been asked to turn out on the last day of the conventional working week. And, given all the data at our disposal, we thought we may as well put it to good use; to see how we’ve fared on Fridays over the years. Before you say “Good Friday” in caps lock and emojis, however, a couple of things may shock you. First, the Easter double-header is actually relatively new thing for the lads at Boro’. Two, there is a gaggle of random Friday night fixtures in the mix. And here’s the lowdown on the whens and what happeneds.

Stevenage x Friday: Overall Record

Right, our overall record on a Friday is… middling. We’ve played 33 times, winning 11 and losing 12 – with 10 draws propping up the count. In those games, we’ve scored 37 times and conceded 43. And we’ll come onto the big source of that negative goal difference shortly. The major thing to spot in all those Friday games is that we’ve been the home side for a disproportionate seven times. For the remaining 26 occasions, we’ve had to do the early weekend travelling.

P 33 – W 11 – D 10 – L 12 – F 37 – A 43 – Home, 7; Away, 26

Stevenage x Friday: Non-League Record

Now, let’s dig down into the non-league vs league split. And, again, there’s a good reason for doing so. In all, we played 18 times across our 30 seasons as a non-league lifers. The first occasion we did so was on Good Friday, 22 April 1983; recording one of our worst-ever defeats as Hitchin Town smashed us 7-1 at Top Field. Now you know why our overall goal difference on Fridays is in the red. But we only went onto play three more times on a Good Friday before promotion in 2010. There were also two Friday Boxing Days and a Friday New Year’s Day, the latter of which was a rather memorable 4-1 win over Cambridge United in 2010.

In terms of the breakdown, Boro’ won six times on a Friday during our non-league days. Yet, it took us NINE attempts to do so. We lost our first three – including defeats at Cheltenham Town and Rushden & Diamonds one week apart in 1997, which accounts for one of our Boxing Days. That first Friday win (vs Dagenham & Redbridge on Good Friday 2005) was also the first time we’d played at home on a Friday.

More often than not as a non-league club, our Friday outings were randomly scattered through the season. We twice ended up at Donny on a Friday night (March 1999 and January 2002). And there was a curious case of a trip to Kidderminster Harriers on Friday 24 August 2007. It is also worth pointing out that our 2004-5 Nationwide Conference playoff win at Hereford United was on a Friday night in early May. We guess that was simply to get the games played in good enough time to organise the final. Who knows.

We forgot to mention that 15 out of 18 Friday outings before we came up to the Football League were on the road too.

P 18 – W 6 – D 5 – L 7 – F 23 – A 29 – Home, 3; Away, 15

Boro' didn't often play at home (or win) on Fridays during our non-league days – but there were exceptions

Stevenage x Friday: Football League Record

In the Football League, this is where Friday night football started to become a relative rarity. Unlike a brief time in the mid-2000s where the Conference seemed to toy with Good Friday football, it’s almost “as standard” for the Great 92.

All but four of our 15 Friday fixtures in Leagues One and Two have been on a Good Friday. Two of those remaining four were playoff ties; first at Accrington Stanley in 2011 and the second at home to Sheffield United a year later. Third was a Boxing Day ‘derby’ clash with Dagenham & Redbridge in 2014. Meanwhile, the fourth, for your wisdom and elucidation, was some random away day to the Ricoh; Coventry City beating us 3-1 and perhaps needing to be off the premises for a weekend Wasps game?

So, what of our record in the Football League. Well, it’s as even as a bean. And beans aren’t even even. Five wins, five draws, and five defeats is the tally; 14 goals for and 14 goals against. It’s worth pointing out as we prepare to welcome Barrow down, too, that Boro’ are currently on a run of three straight Friday wins: Port Vale away in 2019, Oldham Athletic away in 2021, and Rochdale at home this year. Another thing you may have picked up on again is the fact that us being at home on a Friday night or afternoon is unusual.

P 15 – W 5 – D 5 – L 5 – F 14 – A 14 – Home, 4; Away, 11

Stevenage won comfortably at Port Vale on a Friday afternoon in 2018
Photo: Jim Steele/Stevenage FC

Stevenage x Friday: Non-Bank Holidays

Right, last one and we’ll let you go. This match against Barrow is a regular fixture on a regular day of the week. As it isn’t a bank holiday, we aren’t kicking off at 3pm and we aren’t mourning the passing of our saviour. So, do we do better on a Friday afternoon or a Friday night?

All things considered, we’d apparently prefer it not to be a bank holiday. Boro’ have played 19 times on a regular Friday night and have won eight – compared to six defeats and five draws. That definitely compares favourably with our overall record. It’s also the only way of looking at the stats and finding us to be in a positive goal difference. Barrow indoors will be our 20th such occasion and a ninth win would be most welcome. On the basis of history, it’s more likely than not. Then again, history doesn’t count for anything. What we can say for sure is Boro’ have got much better at their Friday exploits when compared with the first one all those years ago across the North Herts divide…

P 19 – W 8 – D 5 – L 6 – F 25 – A 24

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