Good Game: Colchester United 1-6 Stevenage


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…

Colchester United 1-6 Stevenage

The Weston Homes Community Stadium — 26 December 2011 — npower League One

In for a penny, in for a pound; Boro’ set about making up for lost time after (finally) getting promoted to the Football League in 2010. League Two couldn’t hold us and, before we knew it, we were rubbing shoulders with some big wigs in League One. Oh, Colchester United too. The bottom line is that we’d made a bright start to life in the third tier – with some notable results in the first half of the campaign. Even so, this Boxing Day outing came as a surprise.

The background

We were sitting in a lofty eighth position as we came into a first-ever competitive clash with the Us; 32 points from 21 matches putting us on the fringes of the playoffs. Our festive hosts, in contrast, were only three places and three points behind us. So, this certainly wouldn’t be a walk in the park (not that we’d assumed it would be). A tricksy encounter was in store over the county border in Essex. And it felt like it could well be too close to call.

Colchester United 1-6 Stevenage: The rundown

Early goals always settle nerves – and Boro’ had the fortune this afternoon of getting one. It took us nine minutes to grab the lead; Robin Shroot tapping home from close range after an inviting ball across from Chris Beardsley. It was a lead that was soon doubled. Some sterling work from Don Cowan in only his second appearance for us teed up Beardo – who fizzed the ball home from distance.

It wasn’t all Boro’, mind you. And the Us weren’t going to give us the freedom of their abode – certainly not at Christmas. Andy Bond hit the woodwork, while Chris Day had to be on watch too; making a good save to protect our two-goal advantage. But he was helpless as the hosts grabbed a goal back shortly after the interval; Ian Henderson heading in from close range on 51 minutes Far from being home and dry, the momentum could easily have shifted here.

Colchester United 1-6 Stevenage: A clinical exhibition

Of course, this was prime GW Mk II time for Boro’ – and we were made of stern stuff. We had no intention of giving up our prized lead. Even better, Bozzie restored our two-goal lead just after the hour mark with one of his trademark long-range efforts.

Yes, a deflection did make a difference. No, it still counts.

That moment was like a switch. It was if the hosts’ will was now broken, while we decided to break down the door and take what we wanted. Scott Laird finished off a well-executed free-kick routine seven minutes later to make it 4-1, before Luke Freeman joined in on the action two minutes further on. To add insult to injury for our hosts, Joel Byrom added a sixth as the game entered its final eight minutes. It’d been a whirlwind, yet clinical second half display.

And even Jon Ashton found time to showboat…

Colchester United 1-6 Stevenage: And next…?

In the immediate aftermath, Boro’ picked up a weekly award on Soccer Saturday for the best performance of the week or something. Looking at the stats, however, it was hardly one side dominating the other. BBC stats show that both teams had 10 shots on target, while the tally of off-target efforts landed five-to-four in favour of the home side. Yet, there’s only one true metric that matters in football and that’s goals – we got six of them, the Us just one.

The result lifted us into the top six – above Brentford and six points behind Sheffield United in fifth. Colchester United fell to 13th, although you could argue that’s neither here nor there.

Boro’ would go on to end the old year with a 1-0 win at Wycombe Wanderers on New Year’s Eve, but start the new one with defeat at home to Leyton Orient. We then had some FA Cup joy, the disappointment of GW’s departure, and a new life under Smiffy in the first weeks of 2012. To be fair, we still reached FA Cup Round Five and secured a spot in the playoffs at the end of the season. All the while, this incredible Boxing Day win remained a major highlight.

• Full details from the 2011-2 League One season

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