2014-5: Behind The Numbers

By Pete H

For the first time in a quarter of a century, Boro’ entered the 2014-5 season in a division one lower than the previous campaign. We’d spent three years punching hard above our weight; League One giving us the chance to rub shoulders with some truly big names as equals. Alas, Graham Westley couldn’t keep us in the third tier. And back down to League Two we came. It wasn’t the end of the story, of course, as we looked for a way to regain that lost ground.

2014-5 League Two: The background

Boro’ had been comfortably relegated in the end. We finished bottom of League One and had been condemned to our fate with two matches left of the 2013-4 season; a 3-1 home defeat at the hand of Bristol City on Easter Monday finally sealing our fate. Shrewsbury, Tranmere, and Carlisle also came down with us. Up from the National League, meanwhile, came a pair of old adversaries: Luton Town and Cambridge United. They’d have a point to prove, no doubt.

2014 was also the summer that Ronnie Henry returned to the club after his time at the Hatters.

The early stages of the season

In true GW style, we made a totally indifferent start to affairs. A 1-0 home win over Hartlepool United on day one gave way to four games without a win – including our Capital One Cup exit indoors against fellow Herts side Watford. As August became September, Cameron Lancaster scored one of the finest debut goals for Boro’ we’ve ever seen in a 3-2 win at AFC Wimbledon. But form eluded us for the most part and we only won three of our first 10 league outings.

form eluded us for the most part and we only won three of our first 10 league outings
League Two table after 10 league games

Our form continued to be a mixed bag as October brought the autumn and the end of British Summer Time. Wins over Accrington and Burton were countered with defeats to Luton Town, Carlisle United and Pompey. We then started November with a 2-2 draw away to a Tranmere Rovers side who came down with us. But our league form wasn’t exactly dreadful. Besides, if we’d thought that things were bad in League Two, the FA Cup Round One draw didn’t help.

Boro’s humiliating FA Cup exit…

On paper, Boro’ had it nice and easy; a home draw against a Maidstone United side who were, admittedly, going great guns in the Ryman League Premier Division. But we didn’t get it right that afternoon. In fact, the Stones were probably left ruing the fact they’d passed up a decent chance to win it at the Lamex. Mind you, a couple of late chances went begging for us – like a Chris Beardsley header that struck the post; 0-0 it finished.

Down we went to Kent for the replay then, with the TV cameras hoping for an upset. For us, it was new territory. So often we’d been the club dishing out the humiliation. This time, though, our turn had come. After an early goal put the Stones ahead, Darius Charles got us back level shortly after the break. And it looked like we were growing in confidence with that. But that’s now a distant memory as a late Stones goal won it. It didn’t feel good.

… but some league form at last!

2014-5: When Exeter City came to town on 20 December, Boro' sat in 15th position
League Two table on 20 December 2014 (Exeter City, H)

The weird thing is that we started to flicker into life in the league. In between our two fixtures against Maidstone, we thrashed Cheltenham Town at home. Sure, we dropped points against Northampton Town and Morecambe. And then Newport County.  But we then recorded three straight wins (Exeter, Dagenham & Redbridge, and Cambridge United) over Christmas. Given we’d started that run nine points behind the Grecians who were seventh, that wasn’t bad.

Another seven points from the nine that were on offer as we entered January 2015 had set us nicely up for a strong second half of the campaign. Isn’t that the Westley Way? Alas, we didn’t manage to get things all our own way. A 3-2 defeat at Shrewsbury Town started a run of three straight defeats. The good news is that we’d launched ourselves up the table with a good run over Christmas and into the New Year. Now, we were in the playoff mix.

2014-5: The points we'd gained over Christmas and into January had launched us up the table
League Two table on 31 January 2015 (Oxford United, H)

The home straight…

After the three defeats in a row, the rest of February was a good month; Boro’ picking up eight points from the 12 available. The pace didn’t slow up at the start of March either, with back-to-back wins keeping us very much in the promotion picture. It’s never plain sailing though, is it? And a run of five matches without a win threatened to derail our playoff hopes. To be fair, that was a run of four draws and a defeat – so there was at least something being added to the pot.


At the start of March, Boro' were right in the mix – but had company for what was looking like the final playoff berth
League Two table on 07 March 2015 (Newport County, H)

And we’d nail the run in when April came around too. Four wins in five games pushed us over that line and into the 2014-5. League Two playoffs before the campaign was even finished. It’s just as well we didn’t need anything from the final day to that end too. Luton Town beat us by two goals to nil at Kenilworth Road to bring our regular league season to anti-climactic finish. You could forgive the lads for having one eye on the playoffs. Our job wasn’t going to be easy.

Boro' could afford to coast home after securing a playoff place with two games left remaining
League Two table on 25 April 2015 (Carlisle United, H)

Into the playoffs

Boro’ had beaten Southend United by four goals to two in late February; an entertaining match without a doubt. And it was the Shrimpers who’d provide our opposition in the playoffs. They’d narrowly missed out on an automatic promotion spot and were undoubtedly the team to beat.

A highly competitive game at the Lamex in the first leg couldn’t separate the sides; the 1-1 draw leaving honours even going into the second leg at Roots Hall. Of course, that first match is likely to be remembered more for a thundering mid-air collision between our Bira Dembele and their Michael Timlin. The injury kept Dembele out of the second leg. It wasn’t the case for Timlin.

And that came back to bite us. Again, we fought hard at Roots Hall and Tom Pett‘s goal had put us ahead on 55 minutes. Much like the first leg, however, we couldn’t hold onto that lead. Extra time was called for and Boro’s hold on the tie slipped. A 103rd-minute goal swung things in the Shrimpers’ favour, before Timlin nodded in at the death to seal their 3-1 win (4-2 on aggregate).

Our season was over.

What happened next?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But, even at the time, Boro’s decision to part ways with Graham Westley that summer felt inexplicable. Instead, we opted for the inexperience of ex-Manchester United, Spurs, and England striker Teddy Sheringham. The momentum we’d built up during the second half of the 2014-5 campaign in reaching the playoffs took little time to fizzle out. As boss, Sheringham scraped into the New Year before being binned.

Darren Sarll took charge and had the job of putting things back together again. But he couldn’t get us back into the promotion frame. Not that we’re singling him out. Dino Maamria didn’t get us there either, although you could argue he’s come closer than anyone else since 2015 after a near-miss in 2019. And now we’re onto Alex Revell (via Mark Sampson and Graham Westley). It really has been a rocky road over the last few years. But it was nearly oh-so different in 2015…


2014-5 Stats…

  • Goals For: 63 (62 league and 1 cup)
  • Goals Against: 58 (54 league and 4 cup)
  • Most Appearances: Dean Wells (51 out of… )
  • Top Goalscorer: Charlie Lee (9 from 50 outings)
  • Biggest attendance: 5,236 vs Luton Town, 04 October 2014
  • Players Used: 37 (plus nine unused subs)
  • Oldest Player: Dave Beasant (55)
  • Points Per Game: 1.57
  • Average Attendance: 3,180

Season Details: 2014-5 League Two season

With thanks to the Stevenage Football Archive

Leave a comment