Good Game: Stevenage Borough 1-0 Oxford United

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 1-0 Oxford United

Lamex Stadium, Stevenage — 30 March 2010 — Blue Square Premier

Let’s not underestimate how tough it was for us to get out of the Conference in 2010; Oxford United one of the teams in our way. Much like Luton Town that same campaign, the Us were fallen giants with the resources and burning desire to restore their League status. Mind you, it was taking them some time; this was their fourth season of trying to make amends for the ignominy of being relegated from League Two in 2006.

Going into this match, you could describe it as a classic promotion showdown. But, actually, there was a bit more going on during this particular season that made it more interesting…

The background

Stevenage Borough 1-0 Oxford United: The table before the game...

The bottom line is that, after this tussle at the Lamex, there would be seven fixtures left for any serious runners and riders in the promotion race. By this point, Boro’ were in fine fettle; leading the pack by five points from both the Us and Luton Town. To get there, we’d won 14 out of 17 matches in 2010 across all competitions. In the Blue Square Premier, we were on a run of seven straight wins. Y’know, pure ridiculous form.

Yet, we couldn’t relax just yet.

First, we’d just lost six points due to the demise of Chester City. Our two wins earlier on that season were no more. The Us only lost three points because they’d only played Chester once to that point. Elsewhere, Luton had lost just two points; hilariously drawing twice against the now-former City. Less funny was a four-point bite taken by the Hatters out of that advantage we had over them. Enough about Luton, however. This is about Oxford.

Second, this was first versus second. If Oxford came out on top as they had done against us at their place in August, our lead at the top would be down to just two points. Up next after this fixture would be Luton at home. So, it wouldn’t be ideal to go into that one off the back of a defeat. Two dodgy results in the space of a week could have seen us toppled. Here, the Us were ready for business (lol). For us, it was time to lay our title credentials on the line.

And it was also time for GW to drop a phone call in the early hours of the morning.

Stevenage Borough 1-0 Oxford United: The rundown

Of course, this wasn’t going to be a game hot on goals. Mind you, the Us didn’t exactly give much sign of being potential champions in the first 45. Boro’ had the best of that first half; Mitchell Cole guilty of wasting a chance early on, while Michael Bostwick and Tim Sills had their chances too. The latter actually struck the bar, in fact. But what eluded us up ’til that point was the all-important goal.

Luckily, it didn’t take too long in coming when the game restarted after the half time break. David Bridges felt the full and clumsy force of a Us defender from a corner; Jake Wright or Chris Hargreaves depending on the source you use (1 or 2). The referee awarded a penalty, which Scott Laird duly converted. Little did we know at the time how decisive a goal that’d prove to be. Or maybe we did. Either way, the tension was somewhat abated.

Stevenage Borough 1-0 Oxford United: Michael Bostwick in action
Photo: Matt Ranson

Chris Beardsley could’ve done more to ease things even more when he forced a good save out of Ryan Clarke. Simon Clist and Sam Deering, on the other hand, did their best to ruin things. Occasionally, Chris Day had work to do. And, when he did, he did it well. Ultimately, Boro’ were able to see out the match. The win yielded three precious points in the race for the Blue Square Premier title. And it all but knocked the Us out of the race.

Stevenage Borough 1-0 Oxford United: And next…?

It’s hard to believe – but the Us extended a poor run of form with this result; making it one win out of seven in the league. It also let Luton in; the Hatters leaping into second position ahead of our imminent meeting at the Lamex. In pure numbers terms, we were now a huge eight points ahead of the Us with 24 left up for grabs. And, even though Luton beat us next up, Chris Wilder’s men lost at Hayes & Yeading to leave that gap intact with six to play.

Stevenage Borough 1-0 Oxford United: The result all but knocked the Us out of the 2009-10 title race.

We revelled in the Us implosion in the 2009-10 title race at the time. And, to be fair, we still do a bit. Even if they have made us look foolish with certain results in more recent seasons. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for them. Four wins from their last six cemented a playoff place – and gave them a bit of momentum that ultimately helped them get that promotion. For us? Well, the win was just one more magical part of an incredible title-winning puzzle.

With thanks to

• Full details from the 2009-10 Blue Square Premier season

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