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 3-0 Hayes*
Broadhall Way, Stevenage — 28 December 1996 — GM Vauxhall Conference
At the time we wrote this, there are 32 players to have bagged a hattrick in Boro’s red, white, and sometimes black since 1980. Well, you can technically argue the number is actually 33 – though it isn’t officially recorded. Why? Well, this is a festive tale of a Boro’ team being three goals up at half time; one player doing all the scoring. But wait! The ref then decides, at half time, to call the game off and send everyone home. What an absolute wounder!
It’d be something one of those hyperbolic commentators may claim you can’t script! Here’s the tale, however, of when Hayes paid a visit during the 1996 festive period – and a hattrick that never was.
Boro’ were fighting on three fronts during the 1996-7 campaign. First, we wanted to keep our hands on the Conference title; bringing with it our belated promotion to the Football League. Then we had the FA Cup, which saw us in Round Three for the first time ever. And how about an FA Trophy campaign that was soon to begin? We had plenty on our plate and – ultimately – we think it cost us come the end of the campaign. But that’s another story…
We came into Christmas 1996 with some work to do over the second half of the season. The gap between us in fourth and Kidderminster Harriers at the summit was 16 points. Oof. That said, we did have five games in hand; partly a consequence of a long FA Cup run that started in the First Qualifying Round and had included two replays. We were on a good run, though; winning five games in all competitions before a 0-0 draw at Bath City on 21 December.
Mind you, a 2-2 draw at Broadhall Way on Boxing Day against Slough Town was hardly ideal. Luckily, we were at home two days later; Hayes our visitors and struggling down the bottom of the table. It’d actually be our third encounter with them in six weeks. We’d been held by them at home in FA Cup Round One, before we won the replay. And we’d then be playing the Missioners again at their place in the league on 11 January.
Stevenage Borough 3-0 Hayes: The rundown
A not-too-disrespectful crowd of 2,285 were in attendance at Broadhall Way for this meeting. Most of them – on the WILD assumption that some had made the journey from west London – had their cockles warmed early doors; Stuart Beevor back in the team and scoring a super lofted effort on the 10-minute mark. Such was its quality that Phil Ravitz in The Comet billed it as a “‘Cantona’-type effort”. We imagine Phil meant like the lob against Lionel Perez.
The half wore on with Boro’ one goal ahead. But we’d at last give ourselves breathing space with nine minutes until half time. Beevor again lighting up the game with a stunning, rising effort that flew past opposition goalkeeper Meara. The description, though, does give you a little insight into what the players were dealing with; the shot that’d have whizzed home “in these or any conditions”.
With half time now imminent, Beevor unwittingly wrote himself into folklore. The midfielder chanced his arm by throwing himself towards Neil Catlin‘s cross from the left. Meara made a palaver of a punch clear, leaving Beevor on hand to edge it home. Three nil, three for Stuart Beevor. A well-earned half time orange, no doubt. Sadly, there would be no second half. The result wouldn’t stand. And the hattrick? Well, it went the way of our 2009-10 Chester games.
Stevenage Borough 3-0 Hayes: Uh-oh…
The referee, named only as Baker from Wiltshire in The Comet write-up, deemed conditions to be too cold and treacherous to continue. He said: “It was an extremely difficult decision – particularly as one side had the clear advantage… Player safety was my paramount concern. The trainers had been on several times in the last 15 minutes of the half and I could see conditions worsening.
“It was a hard decision to make before kick-off, but I told both team managers before I started that I would review matters at half time.”
Cloughie admitted he knew there was a risk of abandonment, but hoped play could start in the second half to see how things panned out. For 50-or-so members of the Barmy Army, it was a decision greeted with derision. In fact, they stuck around for half an hour after things were ended early in protest. It actually required police and steward intervention to clear the terrace and send people home/to the pub* (*delete as applicable).
Stevenage Borough 3-0 Hayes: And next…?
The failure to complete the game meant we had another to rearrange. It would also be our last outing at Broadhall Way until the end of January, when our opponents would be Kiddy. Inbetween that, we had a run of four straight away games – including our “home” cup clash with Birmingham City and the start of our FA Trophy odyssey at Bath City. And that last one needed a replay as well, didn’t it. Just how it went during the 1996-7 campaign.
Boro’ would eventually welcome the Missioners back on Monday 17 February. This time, the weather was a bit more favourable. Sadly, history couldn’t repeat itself for Stuart Beevor. It was a game that did end in our favour; Boro’ winning 2-0 and recording a first league win in four matches. Our previous win before that? A 3-1 triumph at Church Lane against Hayes. It’s all awfully familiar at this point, isn’t it?
For Stuart Beevor, he’d finish the campaign with four goals. So, the hattrick he had chalked off would’ve nearly doubled his return. And his was a hattrick that is now ultimately lost to time and – by the fact we’re writing this – legend. Boro’ didn’t miss out on the points, which is the most important thing. But we would miss out on all fronts. The FA Cup aside, we’d fall short of the league title by eight points. Woking, meanwhile, ended our FA Trophy hopes.
You can’t say the season wasn’t memorable. But was it for all the right reasons… Stuart?
Main photo: Danny Loo – Stuart Beevor in action during 2021’s Martin Gittings Benefit Match.