Stevenage are once again on course for another battle to remain in the Football League after a sluggish start to their League Two campaign. Alex Revell’s men survived last season by the skin of their teeth last season; requiring off-the-field issues at both Macclesfield and Bury for the club to retain their place among the 92. And last season’s problems in the final third seem to be happening again.
Boro’ appear once again to be at the mercy at the rest of the league to remain in the division. Revell’s men lack a clinical edge at the start of this season; scoring only five goals in their first 10 matches. It includes a run in October without scoring a single goal in seven games. It’s a major concern for the club. But their resilience at the back has given them hope of potentially turning the corner. Boro’ are unlikely to finish high up the table; backed in the football betting odds at 20/1 to finish in the top seven this term.
On the bright side for Stevenage, they have kept clean sheets in four of their 10 games. It includes back-to-back shutouts against Harrogate Town and Grimsby Town. Luke Prosser and Scott Cuthbert are fairly stout in front of Jamie Cumming, while Romain Vincelot has provided security in a defensive midfield role. With a solid rearguard in place, there’s hope that Revell’s men can use that platform to end their struggles in the final third.
Not a great deal has changed from last season in respect of the issues at both ends of the pitch. Stevenage were the best defensive side in the bottom eight outside of Macclesfield. They conceded 50 goals in 36 games before the campaign was brought to an end; keeping 11 clean sheets in the process. After crushing Cambridge 4-0 in January, however, it all fell apart at the back. And it resulted in an eight-match losing run that almost cost the club their place in the Football League.
The burden has to be eased on the backline as knowing you have to shut out your opponent to have a hope of claiming at least a point must be overwhelming for the players involved. There were positive signs at the start of the term in a 3-0 win over Oldham Athletic; Elliot Osborne, Luther James-Wildin and Prosser all on the scoresheet. Elliott List found the back of the net at the end of September in a defeat to Bradford City too. Since then, however, no Stevenage player has managed to score; a streak spanning over 11 hours. It can’t continue – although there aren’t a lot of places for Revell to turn.
Charlie Carter’s return to the middle of the park may offer hope. He scored five goals last term to lead the way for Stevenage. They only scored 24 goals total in the 2019-20 season. So, Carter’s impact in the final third from midfield was vital in keeping them afloat. Inih Effiong was signed from Dover in the summer to attempt to provide firepower in the final third. The forward had scored 16 goals for Dover in the National League in the previous campaign. He found the net in the opener against Barrow from the penalty spot and in the EFL Trophy against MK Dons. But he has so far lacked the potency that Revell would want to see from the 28-year-old.
Tyrone Marsh, Marcus Dinanga, Femi Akinwande and List are all young players. And each one could have the chance to improve as they adjust to life in the Football League. Revell was bold in his overhaul of the squad. But he has to see more than potential from his players on the pitch. He needs goals and results.