At This Stage: February 2024

By Pete H

…and there goes February 2024 – we must remember to thank it. Well, maybe not so much given our bumpy run of form during the bulk of last month. But we came out on the other side and picked up back-to-back home wins to sweeten the deal. Oh, and we’re going into our next batch of league games with a playoff spot in our own hands. Much still to do and say at this stage of things – how have we fared previously at this particular milestone?

Yes – we are also very mindful of the fact we forgot to do one of these for January 2024.

League One comparison at this stage

The bottom line is that we are enjoying our best-ever season in the third tier. That’s based on points gained and games won. After 34 League One fixtures, Boro’ are an impressive five points better off than in 2011-2 – when we secured a playoff place. If we want to compare it against our most recent season in League One, we’re a mere 24 points better off. Of course, being in a promotion battle will always outshine a relegation dogfight.


We’d actually rallied somewhat by this point of the 2013-4 campaign. Our 34th game of that season saw us win 3-1 at home to Tranmere Rovers. It was our third win in four fixtures and gave brief rise to hopes that we may actually pull of a daring survival act. It left us only one point adrift of Rovers, who ended that afternoon one place above us – and just on the right side of the dotted line. With a game in hand over two other teams, it was in our gift.


Are there any notable lookalike seasons?

Just one lookalike season to report – and it’s our 2008-9 Blue Square Premier campaign. It’s one in which we’d won the same number of games (17) and scored more goals (+9). But we’d also conceded more (+10) and it means our goal difference in 2009 was worse than now by a single goal. The key takeaway, perhaps, is that 2008-9 was a season in which we made it into the end-of-season playoffs. A useful omen for this season – or a simple coinkydink?


The best and the worst after 34 games

Obviously, obviously, the 1990-1 campaign is the stand-out here; Cloughie’s men having lost just two in 34. And only a further four had ended all square. The goal tally is also ginormous by any standards; 95 in 34 representing a return of 2.8 goals per game. We’d easily finish that campaign with a hefty ton under the Goals For tally. If you’re looking for season records that aren’t going to be broken (any time soon), that’s the GOAT.


Our incredible return after 34 matches of that 1990-1 season is a tad unfair on the following season too; Boro’ only losing three by this stage of the 1991-2 campaign. That’s even though we’d been promoted and were playing at a higher level. The goal haul is understandably in arrears to the tune of 21 – but even 74 in 34 is a rate of more than two per game. Looking at the bigger picture above, seven points adrift of 1990-1 is no mean feat.


Boro’ were starting to get a rather uneasy sense of déjà vu at this stage of the 2021-2 season. On paper, seven wins from 34 meant we were comfortably ahead of our all-time worst effort (2019-20). But our form had us sliding back towards the bottom two at an alarming rate. Give it two more weeks or so and Paul Tisdale would be gone. In his place during mid-March 2022 came a certain Steve Evans. And the rest is somewhat history…

All done and dusted after 34 games!

A 46-game season is the norm these days; something we’ve become familiar with ever since promotion from the Blue Square Premier in 2010. Except for 2019-20, obviously. But it hasn’t always been the case for Boro’. And the further back you go, you’ll see that it wasn’t unusual for campaigns to vary in length. In fact, one season was already ticked off by the time we hit 34 fixtures – and that was our very first at senior level in 1980-1.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we wrapped things up in February 1981. We just dragged all the matches out across the course of what we would now call a regular August-May campaign.


Just two points were awarded for a win during our United Counties League days. If the three-point reward was in place back then, our total haul would be 76. That’d put it right up at the top when it comes to our best-ever campaigns. To be fair, it is regardless – it’s just that we’re not able to compare like-for-like on a points basis. One thing you can’t dispute is our form in front of goal that season – 106 goals at an average of 3.3 per game!

Main photo: Jim Steele/Stevenage FC

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