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The Conference Years: Stevenage Borough

13 June 2014

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Remembering where we once were.

Rovers and Stevenage met last season at the Keepmoat Stadium in the FA Cup third round, which is somewhat of a luxury considering the first time they met, both Clubs had to qualify just to get to the first round.

For Stevenage, victory over Rovers last term was one of their few highlights as they would go on to meet Everton in round four and lose 4-0 at Broadhall Way – also known as The Lamex Stadium – before finishing the season bottom of League 1; thus avoiding meetings with Rovers next term.

The sides first did battle in 1998 and would continue to meet each other throughout Rovers’ five year stint in the Conference.

Rarely did the South Yorkshire side gain the upper hand; failing to win in the first seven attempts and failing to score in six of these!

The sequence of 0-2, 0-0, 0-3, 1-2, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0 did little to encourage those around Belle Vue.

Rovers’ break did – eventually – come courtesy of a 2-0 win over Boro at home in January 2002 thanks to goals from Jamie Paterson and Neil Campbell.

Somewhat inevitably a stalemate followed in the next clash, before Rovers ran out 3-2 winners in Hertfordshire after a stunning fightback. Former Rover Dino Maamria put the hosts in front after just a couple of minutes before Simon Wormull doubled their advantage. Three second half goals from Francis Tierney, Tris Whitman and Paul Barnes completed a remarkable comeback for Dave Penney’s men.

As we are all aware, Rovers would end the 2002/03 season with triumph over DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE, but what was next for Graham Westley’s men, who were infamously denied promotion to the Football League in 1996 thus reprieving Torquay United?

Despite a string of top ten finishes in the Conference and Westley’s departure, it wasn’t until he came back in 2008 that Stevenage finally got the promotion they had craved in 2010 after missing out in the play-offs on two occasions.

Boro – who actually dropped the ‘Borough’ from their title as a result of promotion, but retained the nickname – would do ‘a Rovers’ and bag a back to back promotion when they defeated Torquay United in the League 2 play-off final at Old Trafford the following year.

Through the goals of former Rovers striker Chris Beardsley, Westley’s men would go on to take League 1 by storm and finished sixth in the table to set up an end of season showdown with Sheffield United, whom defeated them 1-0 on aggregate.

Westley departed yet again to head to Preston North End and Stevenage struggled in the 2012/13 season – including in meetings against Rovers (1-1 and 2-1 home and away respectively) – before their demise this season, which Westley – in his third spell – could not arrest.

*Paul Barnes attempts to beat his man on a Tuesday night in October 2002 at Belle Vue in front of close to 3,500 fans. The game ended 0-0, and the sides have met three times in all competitions since.*

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