Good Game: Stevenage Borough 9-0 Royston Town


By Pete H

Good Game: The series looking at the amazing, utterly memorable, unbelievably dramatic and downright ludicrous games that involved Stevenage Borough over the years. But we’ll insist that we accept no blame for memories warped by time, age or alcohol consumption at the time. We’ll never refer to any games involving Macclesfield Town either – particularly any at Broadhall Way. Those sort of things never happened, dontcha know…

Stevenage Borough 9-0 Royston Town

Broadhall Way, Stevenage — 08 April 1985 — Servowarm League Division Two North

If we’re being honest, Boro’ never set the United Counties League Premier Division alight. After romping to the Division One title in 1981, we spent three years after promotion bumbling around in mid-table. So, the decision to step up and join the Isthmian League (known as the Servowarm League at the time) in 1984 was almost putting the cart before the horse. That said, the leap of faith paid off; Boro’ finding themselves with enormous talent at their disposal for the 1984-5 campaign.

It was a brand-new era for us. And we’d only been playing senior football for four seasons!

The background

Steve Armsby, Paddy Butcher, Graham Cox, Peter Shadbolt, and Denny Tyler; just a few of the iconic names to feature in that 1984-5 campaign for us. And we rather took to the Servowarm League like a proverbial duck to the ol’Roaring Meg. We didn’t lose a league fixture until 30 October! Our form coming into 1985 was a little patchier and inconsistent than earlier on in the season. But we were in the title hunt – albeit not quite able to land a proper punch on the pacesetters.

At the start of April 1985, Boro’ had endured a tricksy second half of March. After starting that month with three league wins on the bounce, we lost three out of five. It meant our title hopes were dangling by a thread. Still, we could only ever focus on our own job and April kicked off with two wins from two; Barton Rovers (away) and Cheshunt (home) yielding six points. Two days after hosting the Ambers, we were back at Broadhall Way for the arrival of another local neighbour – Royston Town.

Stevenage Borough 9-0 Royston Town: The rundown

Unbelievably, we’d made it through to the second week of April and were only facing the Crows for the first time in the league. Our guests were comfortably mid-table and not going to do any damage at either end of the table. On paper, Boro’ were shaping up as the stronger side. Quite how evident that became over the course of that evening would have taken everyone by surprise, of which there can be no doubt. Let’s put it simply. Boro’ ran riot. And the Crows were truly humbled.

It clearly didn’t help the Crows’ cause that they started the match with 10 men. Not that we were in any sort of sympathetic mood. Martyn Sperrin and Denny Tyler had us two goals to the good inside seven minutes. Mind you, Royston found their 11th man soon after that and kept things relatively even for the rest of the first half. You do almost wonder what would’ve happened if the game had started with a full quota of players on the Crows side.

Either way, it’s academic. In the second half, there was no such sign of equity in numbers. A third goal finally came on the hour mark courtesy of Graham Cox. Steve Archer made it four on 67 minutes, with Cox adding his second with 12 minutes remaining. That pretty much got the floodgates springing wide open; Steve Armsby (84′, 90′), Sperrin (87′) and Doug Pirie (88′) showed our ruthless streak as things quickly escalated as the full time whistle neared.

Stevenage Borough 9-0 Royston Town: An understated match report.

Stevenage Borough 9-0 Royston Town: What happened next?

On 1 September 1984 (so, earlier that season), Boro’ defeated Holbeach United by eight goals in the very early stages of the FA Cup. For some teams even today, that’s a club record victory right there. For Boro’, our result against Royston Town topped that. And how often do you see an 8-0 win bettered in the same season? And even then we’re not done. Because 9-0 – if not 8-0 – would surely be a club record win for many clubs today. For Boro’, it was still two goals short of our all-time heaviest victory.

What happened next then? Well, Boro’ would first follow up this result with a 4-0 win against Wolverton Town. But things got patchy as the season wound up. We travelled down to Leyton Wingate and lost by three goals; adding to a 4-0 home defeat earlier in the season. This was a significant result because our hosts would go onto win the title; finishing six points ahead of us in fourth. Not that we helped matters by then losing 3-0 at Saffron Walden Town.

In the penultimate game of the campaign, Royston Town got some form of revenge on us for that drubbing on 8 April; holding us to a 1-1 draw at Garden Walk. By this time, any hopes of the title were gone and so too – effectively – promotion as runners-up. We belatedly got the winning feeling back on the last day of term courtesy of a 3-2 home victory against Flackwell Heath. It meant we’d wrap up fourth position – four points shy of the top two places.

In conclusion….

To be fair, that wasn’t bad for our first crack at the Isthmian League; not least given we had little on-field evidence from the UCL Premier Division that we’d make such an impact. Boro’ didn’t have to wait long to push on either. The 1985-6 season would see us play even better and clinch the Division Two North title. It took just two years, but a fledgling Boro’ side had their second ‘earned’ promotion and second league championship trophy.

But, at that time during the mid-1980s, Division One was a step too far and we were back in Division Two North in 1988. We would eventually make a successful step up in 1991.

• Full details from the 1984-5 Servowarm League Division Two North season

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