Saturday, May 5, 2012

Club focus - Stevenage

Stevenage Borough were formed as recently as 1976 and most of their success has come in the last few seasons. In fact today when we went to see them play Bury and clinch 6th place in League 1 it was their highest ever finish in the league and as it was the game that fired them into the playoffs it could be argued that it was also the biggest game that they have ever had, although the game that they have set up against Sheffield United next week is going to be much much bigger. Stevenage Borough or Stevenage, as they are now known came into existence after the demise of local club Stevenage Athletic. After kicking around in some very minor leagues they entered the United Counties League in 1980 and moved back to the Broadhall Lane ground that they now play at and had been originally occupied by Stevenage Athletic.
In 1984 they entered the Isthmian League and kicked around the various divisions in that league before joining the Conference in 1994 when it was still only one division.
They were more or less an instant success in the Conference and in 1996 they won the league. However, they were denied promotion due to the standard of the ground. Without being funny I don't know what changes they have made to the ground, but there are definitely teams now in the Conference with better grounds and I'd put Broadhall Lane on an equal footing with Histon and Ebbsfleet, which isn't a bad thing as the atmosphere of a small ground and being right near the front you really get close to the action. That said it always seems a shame when clubs are denied promotion on ground grading and the next season they defiantly wore 'Conference Champions' on the badge on the shirt.
In the late 90s they also experienced some success in the FA Cup reaching the third round for the first time in 1996-7 where they lost to Birmingham City at St.Andrews. Again it was the ground that let them down here as they had been drawn to play the game at home, but the match was moved to the Midlands due to restrictions on Broadhall Lane. In 1997-8 they went one better reaching the 4th round and taking Newcastle to a replay. They should have finished the Toon off at home, as Alan Shearer's goal that made the game 1-1 in the first match should have been disallowed. They did get their own back on Newcast le though in 2010-11 when they knocked Newcastle out after beating them 3-1. This season they went all the round to the 5th round and took Spurs to a replay. The last 5 years have seen Stevenage reach unprecedented levels and probably ones that they couldn't have dreamed of. The bitterness of being denied a place in the league in 1996 and losing the FA Trophy final to Yeovil in 2002 must seem like distant memories. In 2007 Boro won the FA Trophy for the first time after coming from two goals down to beat Kidderminster Harriers 3-2. The following year they made it to the playoffs, but lost to Cambridge, although they did have the consolation of winning the Trophy again, this time beating York City. In 2010 they saw that they wouldn't be competing in the Trophy again by gaining promotion to the League. They did have the chance to sign off with a Trophy win, but this time they lost in the final to Barrow.For some reason they also dropped the name Borough from their name. They only stayed in League 2 for one season, as at the end of their inaugural league season they beat Torquay in the playoffs. They could now make it a third consecutive promotion after reaching the playoffs where they will meet Sheffield United in the first game.

No comments: