5 Of The Worst: Festive Foul-Ups


By Pete H

You know the drill. It’s Christmas time and it, traditionally, means all sorts of social gatherings; out with friends or having the fam around for some hearty scran. You also have all the gift buying, food prep, and travel arrangements to figure out. With so much to plan, it’s almost inevitable that something may go awry at some point. Not even football is immune. As the games pile up over the holiday season, players and gaffers work out how they’re going to pull in a decent haul of points. And, yet, the best laid plans eh? Over the years, Boro’ – like every other team in the land – have had their ups and their downs. So, what of our worst festive foul-ups we’d rather forget?

As far as the ‘festive period’ goes, we’ve had a look at the games played between Christmas Eve and the first week of January. You can argue that – but the 12 days of Christmas do technically run until 6 January. Here are five of the worst results from Christmas past.

1. Barnet 2-1 Stevenage Borough, 2 January 2005

The first of our festive foul-ups is erring on the harsh side, perhaps. After all, there’s no shame in losing to the eventual champions on the road. But it’s the context that gets this game into our list. Back in the day, the habit was to have double headers at Christmas. The first half would be on Boxing Day or thereabouts, while the second would be your New Year’s Day treat. The 2004-5 season saw us up against Barnet and they were running away with the title under Cloughie’s leadership. So, three points on Boxing Day at the Lamex set us up nicely for the return trip to Underhill. The big question was whether we could cut into their advantage at the summit.

The promotion situation and the geographic proximity of the clubs meant that someone at Sky Sports HQ thought we were worthy of going live on the tellybox. A Sunday, if you will. And it was a pretty even match. As ever, Giuliano Grazioli felt the need to score against us; putting them ahead on 33 minutes. But we were back on terms just after the break courtesy of Simon Weatherstone. In fact, Weathers came close to a second later on. The final twist was yet to come, however. With a Barnet ball appearing to drift harmlessly wide, Andy Woodman somehow felt the need to flap at it. He palmed the ball behind and, from the resulting corner, Ismail Yakubu nodded home the decisive goal.


2. Boreham Wood 5-1 Stevenage Borough, 1 January 1987

We barely move along the A1 for our next entry into our list of festive foul-ups. As the 1986-7 campaign reached its midway stage, it’s fair to say that Boro’s fortunes had taken a turn for the worse. Playing in Vauxhall Opel League Division One for the first time, we were doing fairly well up until the end of November. December? Not so good. One win in five league games was our run-in to the end of the calendar year. In addition, we lost at Harlow Town in the Knights Floodlit League. So, how’d we fare on the road at Boreham Wood – the club who knocked us out of the FA Trophy earlier that season – on the opening day of a new year?

The answer is “disastrously”. To complete a miserable festive hattrick of defeats for Frank Cornwell’s men over the festive period, The Wood absolutely demolished us. Dave Brown’s goal was nothing more than a paltry consolation; our hosts running in five that afternoon. Another defeat would follow just days later at home to Walton & Hersham. And yet things improved later that January as Boro’ won three in a row to end the month and suggest better things were coming. Alas, it was a false dawn and the second half of the campaign soon turned sour once more. The following season, Boro’ were relegated back to Division Two North.

3. Bristol City 4-1 Stevenage, 29 December 2013

We’re not sure at what point the writing started appearing on the wall for Boro’s League One status during the 2013-4 season. But a miserly Christmas period didn’t help matters. We’d been hammered 4-0 on Boxing Day by Colchester United – and now faced a lengthy away trip in-between Christmas and New Year down to Ashton Gate. It wasn’t a hopeless task, however. Like us, the Robins were struggling at the wrong end of the table. There was a chance, no matter how slim, that we could pick something up from this one. In doing so, it would give us a big lift going into 2014; keeping us in touch with the sides on the right side of the dotted line.

Few of our festive foul-ups were ever secured as early as the first 12 minutes.

The hosts raced into a two-goal lead before we’d even compared notes on our respective Christmas dinners. Any hope we had of pulling it back would then be dashed by a quick-fire brace from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on 69 and 72 minutes. We did manage to get ourselves a goal through Francois Zoko on 74 minutes, but the jig was up. It was a comprehensive and crushing defeat; one that sent us to the bottom of the table by virtue of Crewe winning… at Colchester. GW said he “was comfortable with the work ethic“; a somewhat bold claim given the result. Boro’ did have some high points during the rest of the campaign – including the next fixture; a 3-2 FA Cup win at Doncaster.

Those were too few and too far between to save us from the drop back to League Two, however.

4. Rushden Town 4-1 Stevenage Borough, 27 December 1982

For Boro’, the lead up to Christmas 1982 had been dire. In six outings between mid-November and Santa doing his rounds, a 2-2 draw away to Ampthill on 18 December was all we had to show for ourselves. In the two immediate league games before that, we’d lost 4-1. So, you’re not wrong in thinking that a trip to a strong Rushden Town side would be the last thing we really wanted for Christmas. Had we really been bad boys and girls that year? Anyway, nothing ventured ultimately means nothing gained. And stranger things happen at sea, so why would a home win be inevitable in the face of all things considered?

Well, because of all things considered we suppose. Boro’ were routed at Rushden; a festive foul-up that left us nursing a third 4-1 defeat in four United Counties League Premier Division fixtures. Joe Josiah got the goal, if you were wondering. And things wouldn’t be quick to pick back up for us as we ushered in 1983. The next fixture – Monday 3 January – saw us claim a point away to Potton United. We then went up to Desborough Town and got walloped even harder; 5-1 being the damage on Saturday 8 January. It wasn’t until Saturday 15 January – and our return home – that we ended what had become a long wait for a win.

5. Stevenage 1-3 Dagenham & Redbridge, 28 December 2015

Ah, yet more old adversaries at Christmas time. It’s just like when the in-laws come around – or something like that. We aren’t paid to write satire. The Daggers indoors was one of our festive treats during the 2015-6 campaign; one in which Teddy Sheringham was finding his feet in football management… on the golf course. Ouch, oh no we dint! Anyway, we were floundering a bit by the time Christmas rolled around. Can you believe that we were even below Barnet in the table! We were, at least, comfortably clear of the bottom two. At the time, our guests for the last of our festive foul-ups were one of those bottom two.

Not that you’d have known it based on another of our more recent festive foul-ups. In beating us relatively easily, the Daggers moved off the bottom of the table and left Yeovil propping up the division. All the damage was done in the first half too. After losing four on the spin and having no manager, Boro’ fell behind through goals from Ashley Chambers (18′) and Joss Labadie (19′). Fraser Franks clawed one back (32′), but the two-goal advantage was restored thanks to Christian Doidge (37′). For us, the enduring image was Mark Hughes being turned high up the pitch and then running through treacle to get back as the Daggers scored their second. He was hooked after just half an hour.

Sheringham? He left the club just over a month later.

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