Exeter City will face Stevenage at home tomorrow as they hope to return to winning ways after a disappointing result away to Colchester last week.
Man behind the mask Dan Gottschalk takes a look at the Grecians’ opponents Stevenage F.C. as the Hertfordshire side look to overturn a period of poor form.
Stevenage were formed relatively recently as a football club, being founded in 1976 as Stevenage Borough F.C. following the collapse of Stevenage Athletic due to bankruptcy.
The newly founded Stevenage Borough F.C. found success in their early years as a football club, initially joining the United Counties League in 1980 and winning the United Counties League Division One and the United Counties League Cup in their first season of participation.
An impressive period for the Boro culminated in a superb run of form in the early 1990’s, winning three promotions in four years, being promoted to the Conference National in 1994. Stevenage quickly found their feet in the Conference National and in the 1995/96 season, just their second in the league, they finished top and prepared for life in the Football League.
Stevenage were however denied a spot in the Football League due to having insufficient facilities; the Football League deeming that the Boro’s ground Broadhall Way was unable to cope with the demands of League football.
This would mark the start of a 14 year barren spell for the club, unable to challenge for a Football League spot until eventually gaining promotion to League Two in the 2009/10 season and dropping the ‘Borough’ from their name in preparation for life in the Football League.
The newly named Stevenage F.C. would quickly establish themselves on the Football League, beating Torquay United 1-0 in the 2010/11 play-off final to reach League One and secure back-to-back promotions.
Stevenage’s first season in League One started brightly and earned them a place in the play-offs, facing off against promotion rivals Sheffield United. Unfortunately for the Boro, their rise up the Football League would end there, the club losing 1-0 to the Yorkshire side on aggregate to end an impressive season which also saw Stevenage knock Premier League side Newcastle United out of the FA Cup.
Season in Focus
Last season was Stevenage’s third in League Two since being relegated from League One. Having finished 18th the previous season, the Hertfordshire side were looking to consolidate their place in the Football League to prevent a return to non-league football.
Stevenage arguably managed to exceed expectations in the league last season however. A good run of form between the end of January and the beginning of April saw the Boro lose just once in 13 games and return 32 points from a possible 39, seeing them inside the play-off places with just a handful of games remaining.
However, a disappointing run of games towards the end of the season damaged Stevenage’s promotion hopes as they failed to win in their last six games, eventually finishing 10th, three points behind eventual play-off winners Blackpool.
Stevenage would have been hoping to build on last season’s performance with a promotion push this time out. Results haven’t gone Boro’s way at times this season however and they currently sit in 16th although remain just five points off the play-offs having taken 27 points from the first 21 games.
Stevenage come into tomorrow’s game against Exeter having struggled in recent games. The Hertfordshire side have not won in their last seven in the league in a run of form that dates back to 17 October with an eyebrow raising 3-2 victory over promotion hopefuls Accrington Stanley.
Some good news of late for Stevenage fans however has been the club’s performance in the FA Cup, reaching the Third Round with a comprehensive 5-2 victory over Swindon Town to set up an exciting tie against last season’s Championship play-off finalists Reading F.C.
Ones to watch
Despite struggling for League form in recent weeks, the form of some individuals this season has been something to celebrate for Stevenage fans. In particularly good form this season has been strikers Matt Godden and Danny Newton each finding the net on nine occasions this season and assisting six times between them.
Starting his career at Scunthorpe United, clinical striker Godden has been a revelation for Stevenage since joining the club in 2016. Having made just 18 appearances for Scunthorpe, Godden had a string of loan deals over a number of seasons before eventually moving to Ebbsfleet United on a permanent deal in 2014.
Despite failing to find his feet at previous clubs, Godden hit form for the Fleet and over the course of two seasons and 70 appearances, scored 35 times. This earned Godden a move to Stevenage at the start of last season and he hit the ground running in his debut season for the Boro, netting a total of 21 times across 43 appearances. This summer, unsurprisingly, there was interest in the Stevenage striker with Charlton Athletic reportedly lining up a £1.5 million bid, but despite interest from clubs in higher leagues, Godden remained in Hertfordshire.
Hailing from Liverpool, Godden’s team mate and fellow striker Danny Newton has settled in well to life in the Football League. The 26 year old has represented a number of non-league sides but had struggled to make a lasting impression before being picked up by Stevenage this summer.
Newton is perhaps most famous for being the first graduate from Jamie Vardy’s V9 academy to find a professional football club, the academy aimed at promoting talent from non-league sides. The striker has adapted well to life in League Two however and scored some crucial goals for the Boro, including strikes in draws against Newport County and Notts County and a brace in Stevenage’s 5-2 victory in the FA Cup against Swindon Town.
Last Time Out
The last time Exeter faced Stevenage at St James Park was in February earlier this year, the sides sharing the points with the game ending in a 1-1 draw. The scorers that day were former Premier League star Jobi McAnuff and City’s very own Reuben Reid with a controversial finish with accusations being made post-match that Reid had handled the ball to secure a point.
Perhaps more memorable was the game against the two sides at St James Park in October 2015, a barnstorming match being played live on Sky Sports ending in a dramatic 3-3 draw. This game will live long in the memory of Exeter fans perhaps most famous for Clinton Morrison’s first goal for the Grecians, an emphatic overhead kick in a game where Exeter were denied all three points late on by a Chris Whelpdale volley in added time.
Midfielder Whelpdale, now 30 years old, still lines up for Stevenage and City will be hoping to stop him from repeating these scenes when the two sides meet tomorrow afternoon.
Tickets are still available for tomorrow’s match although very few remain for sale in the IP Office Main Stand. Tickets are available in person at St James Park, over the phone and online.