The start of the 2000-1 campaign saw the return of Paul Fairclough as Stevenage boss, with the hope Cloughie could once again weave his Conference-winning magic. The division had moved on in the intervening years, with former League clubs now dropping down. And that meant the challenge had been made just that little bit more difficult for Boro’ to overcome.
There were no shortage of draws as Boro’ cantered into seventh place in the pre-playoff Conference – 18 in fact, with only champions Rushden losing fewer games all season. Meanwhile, Boro’s FA Cup run ended at the first hurdle and FA Trophy hopes ended on penalties – both somewhat surprisingly at home to opposition in the form of Nuneaton and Canvey Island.
It was a season in which Neil Illman topped the scoring charts with a decent 17-goal haul; Darran Hay just behind him on 16 and Adrian Clarke also breaking into double figures. Paul Armstrong, a home-grown graduate, made nearly half a century of appearances, with a fair whack of ’em coming from the bench.