All teams have seasons that live long in the memory. Mind you, that can sometimes be for better or for worse. Y’know, if you’re Derby County fans looking back at a diabolical 2007-8 Premier League campaign. For Boro’, however, seasons that live longest in our memories are laced with good times. And our superb 2009-10 Blue Square Premier campaign is one of them. In fact, it’s the one season above all others that we think of first. And here’s how it all unfolded from start through to end.
2009-10 Blue Square Premier: The context
Boro’ came into the 2009-10 season after a bittersweet end to the previous campaign; the crushing disappointment of losing after extra time in the playoffs to Cambridge United was on one side. On the other, there was our second FA Trophy crown in three seasons as two goals sunk York City at Wembley. Going into the new campaign, we were still fancied to be in the promotion mix. But it wasn’t going to be easy for us.
First, Luton Town had now completed their three straight relegations; dropping like a stone from the Championship to the Conference in double quick time. Bookies were also looking kindly upon Oxford United‘s hopes of promotion. And don’t forget the Us from above, after they messed up in the playoff final they beat us to reach. We’d have to get ahead of these three (and more) without the goals of Steve Morison too. It was a tough ask.
But we did keep the bulk of the squad together that summer. That would count for a lot.
2009-10 Blue Square Premier: As it unfolded…
Believe it or not, Boro’ got the 2009-10 Blue Square Premier season up and running with Lee Boylan‘s 12th-minute goal against Tamworth. Sadly for us, however, it didn’t set us on a path to victory; the Lambs holding us to a 1-1 draw. In fact, our first three games ended all square. And then, after beating Ebbsfleet United, we suffered an early season defeat to promotion rivals Oxford in our fifth outing. It had been a slightly ponderous start.
It didn’t take long for us to get into our stride, though. After defeat at the Kassam, we won five on the bounce. It included our brilliant comeback victory from two goals down at Field Mill and three points against Chester City that we later lost. Grays, Alty, and York all then took points off us as we drew three in four games (the other one being our famous win at Kenilworth Road). But it did mean we slipped further behind Oxford – who had raced out of the blocks and plonked themselves at the summit.
For us, we trundled on our unbeaten way. Apart from defeat in the FA Cup First Round to Port Vale, we weren’t on the wrong side of the result until the start of December. On what was a freezing cold night at Ebbsfleet, Yemi Odubade put us ahead, went off at half time, and could only watch on as the Fleet turned the tables. It wasn’t a huge deal at that point. We were five points off top thanks to an unbeaten league run that went back 17 games.
Albeit with a game in hand
2009-10 Blue Square Premier: The rise
Into Christmas and out the other side, our time to pounce arrived. As the weather struck a blow elsewhere in the land, we were able to do a beautiful double over Cambridge United; 3-1 at theirs on Boxing Day and 4-1 at ours on NYD. We also had a 0-0 draw indoors with AFC Wimbledon. It took us to the summit for the first time. But games in hand were still in Oxford’s favour. And we’d have to fight back harder to reclaim top spot.
The big thing to note, however, was the Us had lost their unbeaten home record.
Two 1-0 defeats in February – against Tamworth and Rushden & Diamonds – didn’t work in our favour. But they were the only blips in a run of form that really started to turn up the heat. In March, we won eight games in a row; one of which was against our big title rivals. And only one of them saw us concede a goal; bottom club Grays Athletic giving us a bit of a scare by taking the lead at their place.
March was also a month when things started to get a bit heated off the pitch. Luton Town, incensed by the fact they couldn’t waltz into the Conference and clean up, started getting annoyed by the idea that we may want the six points we earned by beating Chester twice. Chester had gone under and their record expunged at the start of the month. There were 10 clubs, including us and Oxford, that wanted our points back.
“I’d have a little wager that it is partly because we have won the last four games and people are suddenly flapping a little bit,” said Hatters boss Dickie Dosh. “When the decision was originally taken we were a little bit further behind. Now we are a little bit closer and suddenly one or two are beginning to mess their pants a bit.”
2009-10 Blue Square Premier: The climax
He said that on 19 March. We were midway through our winning run – so weren’t all that worried. And we’d even spanked Kidderminster Harriers in the FA Trophy semi-final. Our lads were fighting on two fronts and making a damn good fist of it. If anyone was making any mess in their pants, they were talking the talk to the media. Boro’, on the other hand, were too busy walking the walk.
Luton came to us on 3 April. At home, we were unbeaten at that point. The Hatters trailed us by five points back in second. Oxford? They were pretty muych out of it. But one single goal settled it for our guests. The title race was still very much alive. Not that we wanted it that way. But any reports of our demise were greatly exaggerated. No pant-messing. And no Oxford-style collapse. We’d prove that a few days later over that Easter weekend.
We travelled to playoff-chasing AFC Wimbledon and – arguably – pulled off the result of the season; winning 3-0 at Kingsmeadow. Backing it up with a 2-0 home victory against FGR the following weekend strengthened our hand even further. Next, though, would be three away games on the spin that’d decide the fate of our destiny.
First came Altrincham. A side we often saw struggle in the Conference, Alty could also be a tricky customer. As the clock dwindled down, Charlie Griffin came off the bench with 12 minutes remaining to score the winning goal. The impact of his goal was huge – because it meant we’d go up to Kidderminster a few days later with the title up for grabs there and then. You don’t need us to tell you what happened at Aggborough that day either.
It’s seared into your memories. Whether you were there or not.
2009-10 Blue Square Premier: The aftermath
Our last game of the season was at home to York City; the Minstermen already confirmed as one of the five teams to take part in the playoffs. Along with Luton and Oxford (lol). But we still had that third away straight game to fit in before then. It took us to Gateshead and was, again, a tight encounter. But Scott Laird held his nerve from the penalty spot to wrap up another three points and keep the season ending on a high.
In the haze of celebratory feelings, you might struggle to remember that final game ended 1-0 to Boro’; David Bridges settling matters in our favour. We came into the match leading the pack by nine points. That made a mockery of any creeping nerves you had after Luton won at our place. Never in doubt, right? Anyway, victory over the Minstermen took us onto 99 points – though add on our Chester points and that’s 105. It’s some achievement.
We couldn’t realise our hopes of a historic non-league double, however. It’d be Barrow’s day in the FA Trophy Final a fortnight after the league season finished. Again, it’s not as if you need us to tell you what happened at Wembley that day. So, there wasn’t a cherry on top of the cake for us that season. But we had the cake. We ate it. And it was good. Now, more than 10 years on, we’re still living out the legacy of that 2009-10 Boro’ squad.
With thanks to the Stevenage Football Archive.
2009-10 Blue Square Premier: Interesting Stats…
- First goal of the league season: Lee Boylan vs Tamworth (12 minutes)
- Quickest hattrick: Mitchell Cole vs Eastbourne Borough (7 minutes)
- Biggest away win: Eastbourne Borough 0-6 Stevenage Borough
- Unbeaten run: Stevenage Borough (17 matches | 29 Aug – 01 Dec)
- Home wins in a row: Stevenage Borough (7 matches | 01 Jan – 03 Apr)
- Away wins in a row: Stevenage Borough (8 matches | 24 Feb – end of season)
- Most clean sheets: Stevenage Borough (27)
- Clean sheets in a row: Stevenage Borough (6 matches | 05 Apr – end of season
Season Details: 2009-10 Blue Square Premier