Hertfordshire Senior Challenge Cup Quarter Final.
Stevenage 3 Boreham Wood 5,
by John Mead.
The Cup holders are through to the Semi-Finals after a quite remarkable game against a talented Stevenage side at the Lamex Stadium. For those who witnessed it there was scarcely time to blink, with Wood producing a superb all round team performance on a night of twists and turns.
Three goals of the highest quality inside seven minutes was a fine response to going a goal down inside ten minutes, only for the hosts to pull two goals back either side of the interval to level proceedings. However it was Wood who came up with the goods, pulling away to record a superb victory in this pulsating tie.
The evening belonged to Lee Angol, who scored three, made a fourth and was hauled down for a penalty that was saved. Take nothing away from two excellent strikes from Matty Whichelow, nor the impressive Charlie Hunter who was outstanding at right back on the night.
Fielding a side consisting of First Team squad players, returning loanees and youth products with a huge pedigree, Boro face a Wood side that Ian Allinson had selected to, “ Give some a rest, whilst using others to allow that to happen.”
That effort led immediately to the Stevenage opener with Sam Beasant clearing upfield for Joe N’Guessan. The young striker returning from a loan spell with Aldershot Town turned Jordan Brown inside out down the right before finishing with a fine strike across James Russell.
N’Guessan was to be an important outlet for The Boro all evening, but his early effort was cancelled out four minutes later. Stealing possession from Tom Conlon in the centre of the park, Angol accelerated with ease past two defenders, drawing Beasant off his line before dinking the ball over the keeper and into the net. It was a fine individual effort and Angol kept the momentum going.
Three minutes later he powered forward unimpeded down the right picking out Whichelow who curled a superb shot into the top left hand corner of the net to give Wood the lead.
It was an impressive strike that was to form the sandwich for a three goal salvo which stunned the hosts. Just four minutes later and with just twenty compelling minutes played Montgomery and Junior Morias played a quick one two on the left flank close to the goal line. Montgomery kept up the tempo firing a decisive low cross across goal, which was met by a quite sublime first time volley from Whichelow that stayed low and flew into the net.
Boro settled back into the game, orchestrated by a fine midfield performance from young Dale Gorman, an under 19 Northern Ireland International, whose distribution and authority on the ball was key until he was replaced.
Russell saved well to deny George Casey after more fine work from N’Guessan, before the hosts clawed a goal back a minute later. It appeared that Scott Thomas was impeded in the centre of the park, but play was allowed to continue with a fierce shot from Calvin Zola crashing back into play off a post that fell kindly for Fejiri Okenabirhe who had the composure to pick his spot.
It was an even end to a pulsating half that had goals of high quality, the interruption of the break the only diversion for yet more action to follow.
Roarie Deacon fired just over for the hosts, before Montgomery forced Beasant into a tip over at the other end. Reynolds then fired over after good work from Angol before the hosts pulled it back to three apiece, after 55 minutes.
Conlon played a fine ball through the middle for Okenabirhe who took it in his stride to fire home his second of the night.
Hunter then superbly denied N’Guessan from the restart and with the hosts looking to turn the screw a minute later Russell made a quite brilliant save flying through the air to deny Zola a goal that his exquisite curling strike was well worthy of.
Angol was thwarted by a fine tackle by Bira Dembele that led to a corner on the left. Montgomery delivered and it was Angol who reacted with his flick at the the near post flying into the net. Wood had clawed their way back into the game inside four minutes for the second time on the night.
The action continued unabated with Deacon hitting the crossbar, before Angol burst into the penalty area to be bought down by Casey. Just two minutes had passed since Wood had taken the lead and the drama increased with Beasant guessing correctly and keeping out Angol’s resultant penalty to deny the Vanarama Conference South’s leading scorer a hat trick.
Both side made changes at this stage, with Ricky Shakes and Sam Cox introduced as a real sign of intent from Allinson with over twenty minutes remaining.
It was Shakes who knocked the ball beyond a defender down the right before executing a fine cross that was perfect for Angol who found himself in space on the left. Everything that had happened previously paled into insignificance, with the young striker eyeing the flight of the ball before smashing home the perfect volley across Beasant to cap a quite outstanding performance.
The Gaffer praised his sides “ Great character to bounce back with three quick goals, then having to do it all again at 3-3. “ On the subject of Angol he added, “ Lee has come a long way in ten months, especially with his confidence and he is certainly blossoming at the moment. He needs to keep working hard and is benefitting from being part of a winning side.”
Team: Russell, Hunter, Brown, Thomas, Hill, Reynolds, Whichelow ( Shakes 67), Noto ( Cox 67), Angol ( Merson 80), Morias, Montgomery.
Subs not used: Vasey, Russo.
Goals: Stevenage: N’Guessan 9. Okenabirhe 31,55.
Boreham Wood: Angol 13, 59,72. Whichelow 16,20.
Man of the Match: Lee Angol.