11 May 2012

The Remarkable Story of Stevenage FC

In 1995-96 Stevenage Borough won the Football Conference and their fans had League football to look forward to for the first time. However they were denied promotion as a result of insufficient ground facilities and Division Three bottom club Torquay United kept their place. For the next 11 years they had to be satisfied with a reputation as a solid Conference side and dangerous cup team. The 'Boro' reached the Fourth Round of the FA Cup in 1996-97, losing 2-1 in a replay to Newcastle United after a famous draw at home ground Broadhall Way. They continued their great cup tradition into the 21st century with FA Trophy wins in 2007 and 2009, as well as two final defeats. 

Despite this what happened in the next three years is almost unparalleled. After losing star striker Steve Morison to Millwall they regrouped to win the Conference title by an astonishing 11 points. This time the Hertfordshire club claimed their place in The Football League and held Macclesfield to a 2-2 draw in their first league game. A good run ensued and they began to push for an unlikely play-off place. On top of this they reached the Fourth Round of the FA Cup for the second time, gaining revenge on Newcastle by winning 3-1, only to lose 2-1 to Reading. 

Following a 3-0 aggregate win over Accrington Stanley they won the play-off final 1-0 against Torquay United; the team that took their place in The Football League all those years before. This season they have kept up the fairy-tale with some excellent performances. Their Cup record improved again as they reached the Fifth Round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history. They almost went one further as they held high-flying Premier League giants Tottenham to a 0-0 at a bouncing Broadhall Way. They even took the lead in the replay only to fall to a valiant 3-1 defeat.

What has been even more impressing is their league form this season as they have a play-off semi-final against Sheffield United tonight. They finished 6th after holding off a challenge from Notts County by beating Bury 3-0 to take the final play-off place on goal difference. 
19 year-old striker Luke Freeman said: "We're not afraid of playing them in one game and we believe we can take them over the two games." 
The League One Young Player of the Year went on to say that Stevenage " can defend as well as attack, which is why we've got to where we have."

Stevenage will be buoyed by the fact that they won the corresponding fixture in the league 2-1, as well as taking a point from Bramall Lane just weeks ago. The 2-2 draw turned out to be the two points dropped that pushed United out of the automatic promotion spots. All that remains to be seen now is whether or not The 'Boro' can continue their unbelievable rise.

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