5 Of The Best: Boro’ Festive Football Treats


By Pete H

Right, what does festive football mean to you? Is it the traditional Boxing Day fixture? Or how about the New Year’s Day games that’ll shake off your hangover – for better or for worse? Both are legit answers, to be fair. But let’s not forget about all the footballing frolics we usually have to savour during the holiday season. After all, there’s a full week between the main event and the end of the calendar year. And the 12 days of Christmas stretch all the way to 6 January. Here, then, we celebrate some of Boro’s festive football treats that fall between the gaps; the pa rum pum pum pum results that lit up our Christmas like a big f-off pine tree covered in tinsel.

The rules? All these games must be either within four days before Christmas Day – or 12 days afterwards…

1. Swindon Town 1-2 Stevenage Borough, 3 January 1998

Now, let’s not forget that early January brings with it FA Cup Round Three day. In some years, it falls well within what we call the Christmas period. The weather for our famous trip to Swindon was almost as bad as our league record during the 1997-8 campaign. Mind you, we did register a 2-1 home win against Rushden & Diamonds on New Year’s Day – just two days before. Otherwise our festive period was in danger of being a complete write off; Boro’ losing three from three between 19 December and that Rushden game. So, it did at least mean that our hopes of avoiding a total festive disaster didn’t rest on a mismatch with a strong Robins side.

Actually, what we got is now firmly entrenched in Boro’ folklore. We doubled up our win count for 1998 on only the third day of the year; a late Giuliano Grazioli stealing it in the wind and rain. How’s that for a belated Christmas present?

2. Altrincham 1-5 Stevenage Borough, 29 December 2007

The dust had settled on the end of Stimmo’s tenure as Boro’ boss by the time Christmas 2007 rolled around. But Peter Taylor didn’t have us coming into the holiday season in fine form. We’d been dumped out of the FA Trophy at the first time of asking by Dorchester Town. It’s not like we were the holders or anything. Oh. Shoot. And Woking knocked us out of the Setanta Shield on Saturday 22 December. A 0-0 draw up at Rushden & Diamonds on Boxing Day did little to instil confidence either. So, what did we have next. A long trip north to face Altrincham; famous for making life hard for us on occasion. It felt like a tricky proposition.

In the end, what we were served up was a complete rout. Boro’ hit five against a punch-drunk hosts in miserable weather (this may start to become a common theme). We were so dominant that even their goal was scored by us; John White turning into his own net.

3. Stevenage Borough 5-0 Farnborough Town, 28 December 2002

After a dismal Boxing Day 2002, managerless Boro' bounced back days later with a festive treat at home to Farnborough.

Just two days before this fixture, Boro’ had hit a nadir; losing at Kettering Town and falling to the foot of the Conference table. That disaster cost manager Wayne Turner his job and everything was basically a mess. You wouldn’t, therefore, have envied John Dreyer stepping into the caretaker boss role. First task: to stop a rot that had long set in under Turner. If we were to have any chance of staying up, points needed to come from somewhere. And it turns out that three of them were to come in this festive football treat; plucked out of almost nowhere after a chastening defeat at Rockingham Road.

BoroGuide’s considerably younger editor at the time was working the trollies at Waitrose Hertford when score alerts were dripping in. Fear turned to incredulity as each of the five alerts signalled that Boro’ weren’t done just yet; Justin Richards’ hattrick the day’s main headline.

4. Stevenage Borough 6-1 Grays Athletic, 28 December 1992

Neil Trebble defied his name; scoring FOUR times in a 6-1 rout of Grays Athletic

Boro’ were faring OK in their first season as a Diadora League Premier Division side. We’d worked out the tough nuts to crack, while taking points off the weaker ones. Our festive period hadn’t been spectacular, however. St Albans City knocked us out of the Herts Charity Cup on 22 December, before a super-strong Enfield side narrowly defeated us on Boxing Day. Mind you, the latter of the two results could suggest that we weren’t far off where we wanted to be. Anyway, Grays Athletic were up next for us; our final match of 1992 and a chance to end yet another successful year in our history in style.

It turns out that Boro’ took that opportunity. Neil Trebble defied his name; scoring FOUR times in a 6-1 rout of the Essex side. There aren’t many players to do that for Boro’ in a single match. One of the others, Martin Gittings, found the net here too. Because of course he did!

5. Stevenage 4-2 Barnet, 3 January 2011

It feels like we have a lot to unpack here. First and foremost, our introduction to life as a Football League club had been a demanding one – as you could reasonably expect. But our position in the table was a rather uninspiring, high-teen one. It didn’t help that we were without a league win since 2 November… when we beat Mark Stimson’s Barnet side (convincingly) at Underhill. Stimmo had literally just been sacked by the time this return fixture rolled around; the Bees now with Paul Fairclough in their dugout – and proving their habit for employing ex-Boro’ managers was as strong as ever. Yes – we know Cloughie is probably more associated with them now.

We digress.

Boro’ weren’t shy about coming out of the blocks. It took just eight minutes for us to build a two-goal lead; Grant Basey’s comical OG giving us a nice cushion after an early Luke Foster strike. We were three up at the break and four up soon after. The two late Bees goals? Not ideal.

… and an honourable mention – 1990-1

It's worth giving the 1990-1 Diadora League Division Two North campaign a mention in its entirety if we're talking festive football treats

It’s worth giving the 1990-1 Diadora League Division Two North campaign a mention in its entirety if we’re talking festive football treats. We started with a 2-1 win over Royston Town on Saturday 22 December, before overcoming Hertford Town (1-0, Boxing Day); Tring Town (3-0, 29 December); Royston again, albeit in the Southern Combinations Cup (4-0, 2 January); and Witham Town (3-0, 5 January). Five festive wins in five festive games was our return that season. Boro’ scored 13 and conceded once, which certainly isn’t a shabby return either. There’s a lot that makes that 1990-1 season a high watermark in our history – and our festive football return is just one of those factors.

Leave a comment