Stevenage’s unbeaten run comes to an end after Shrewsbury thriller

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Greenhous Meadow, Shrewsbury

Greenhous Meadow, Shrewsbury

Stevenage appeared to be on the cusp of getting into the play-off places a few days ago, but their momentum has been temporarily halted after a 3-2 defeat against Shrewsbury Town. Stevenage were always expecting a tough match this weekend, as they were taking on a team just one point below the League Two table leaders Wycombe. Betfair continues to place Shrewsbury as the favourites to win the League Two title at odds of 13/8. This was never going to change despite Mellon’s team managing just two wins in the last five matches.

Graham Westley’s team had put together an impressive run of form since the middle of December. They dropped only two points in a run of six matches and this has contributed to Stevenage pushing closer to the play-offs. Stevenage may have played a game more than their nearest opponent – Bury, but they are outside the play-offs only by virtue of goal difference. This defeat, though, could not have come at a worse time since Stevenage take on Bury at home in the second week of February.

Matches against Mansfield Town and Oxford United are of an immediate concern for Westley, who will be aware that his team needs to return to winning ways quickly. Marriott provided a great start to Stevenage by opening the scoring after just 10 minutes, but a mad four-minute spell saw Shrewsbury take the lead. Dean Wells scoring just before half-time looked to have done enough to maintain the unbeaten run going for Stevenage, but Jamie Collins had the last laugh with a winner in the 88th minute.

The trip to face a team that has not lost at home this season was always going to be difficult, but Westley can be proud of the effort from his players. However, he was not happy with the way his team’s concentration eroded during the final 15 minutes. Westley felt that Stevenage had a great opportunity to potentially win the match with the number of half chances that they had during this period. However, lack of concentration at the back proved decisive and allowed Shrewsbury to score yet another late goal. Shrewsbury manager Micky Mellon was happy with the way his team were getting credit for the never say die attitude that they have shown this season.

The match also witnessed the introduction of David McAllister, who was coming up against Shrewsbury Town, for the first time since joining Stevenage on a permanent basis a week ago. McAllister had spent a successful period on loan at Stevenage earlier in the campaign and Westley said before the match that he was happy to get the 26-year-old on a permanent basis. The Irish midfielder played for 67 minutes against Shrewsbury after being introduced as a replacement for Tom Pett early in the first half.

Betfair places Graham Westley’s Stevenage at 9/1 to get promoted at the end of the season. Aside from Shrewsbury, the likes of Burton, Luton, and Wycombe are also favourites to getting promoted into League One.

Stevenage will be more than confident of getting six points from the next two matches. Both Oxford United and Mansfield have failed to win any of their last four matches. If Westley’s team are able to put behind the disappointment of this defeat against Shrewsbury, they can continue their pursuit of a play-off place. The next five matches will be very crucial given that Stevenage face both struggling teams and those fighting near the top of the table. Home matches against Bury and Southend United could prove to be very crucial come end of the season.

Photo: SalopianJames

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