Does Stevenage have the stomach for the run-in?

21.04.2023 07:56:53 James Milin-Ashmore
Lamex Stadium, Broadhall Way, Stevenage FC

I looked at Stevenage FC's play-off hopes back in September 2022, when the team was flying high after 10 games played. It was still early days, but I built up their chances of  gaining promotion, as they were ripping the form book apart under new head coach Steve Evans. 

Ever since, Boro have stayed in sight of the automatic spots, but then started to fall away with a handful of games to go. A win against AFC Wimbledon seemingly set them back on the right track towards League One after almost a decade spent in the fourth division. This was followed by a 1-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers.

 

A middling run of form since February 

Stevenage struggled for a couple of months and were 14th in the form table before their match against Wimbledon. They were slowly slipping away in League Two and looked to be in danger of missing out on automatic promotion after a dismal run over Easter. This is despite losing only three league games in a spell that stretched from July to February.  

Since losing to Bradford City on February 11th, they lost a further four, drew five, and won five games. This includes their hard-fought 2-1 win over the Dons and their fully deserved victory over out of form Doncaster.

Further positive news comes from the fact that Boro still has a game in hand and the side benefits from one of the easier run-ins compared to the chasing pack. 

 

Stevenage 2022/23: The run-in

Stevenage’s run-in is as follows: Mansfield Town, Swindon, Grimsby, and Barrow. Only Mansfield has anything to play for, with a great chance of making it to Wembley. 

In terms of the competition for automatic promotion, Northampton have to face Bradford, while in-form Stockport will meet league leaders Leyton Orient in their penultimate tie. As for the Os, they’re almost certain to win the league thanks to a 7-point cushion, as well as a game in hand.  

It is worth mentioning that Wimbledon & Doncaster have the joint lowest points tally earned over the last 10 games in the league. In other words, beating them wasn’t the most difficult endeavour. Not that, that matters to Stevenage. 6 crucial points at this stage of the campaign is what counts.

 

Injuries and a goalkeeping crisis 

With the arrival of emergency loanee Thimothee Lo-Tutala in April, Stevenage have used seven goalkeepers this season. Having started the campaign with Taye Ashby-Hammond and Aaron Chapman, the former picked up an injury, while the latter moved to Scunthorpe after struggling to cement a spot in the first XI. 

Jokull Andresson, Adam Pryzbek, and Toby Savin have spent time between the sticks, while Jon McCracken looked to have settled in following an emergency loan deal from Norwich City in March. 

Instead, McCracken sustained an ankle injury against fellow promotion hopefuls Northampton Town a few weeks later, forcing Boro to turn to Hull youth player Lo-Tutala. The former Tottenham goalkeeper had yet to play a senior game in the Football League, but he is a highly-rated France Under-20 international. 

Lo-Tutala was thrown in at the deep end, and despite conceding a goal per game until the Doncaster game, is unbeaten as the side has managed to get back to winning ways. It’s not a bad result for their third emergency signing of the season (Savin was also brought in via emergency loan, by way of Accrington Stanley). 

Good news comes from the fact that Lo-Tutala managed to shut out Doncaster. However, it’s not ideal for any team chasing promotion, with the team unsettled at the back during a spell that has dragged on for months. 

 

Stevenage’s automatic promotion hopes: summary 

Stevenage weren’t favourites for automatic promotion by any means when the season started, but they currently sit in third, with a game in hand. The side is four points clear of fourth-placed Stockport, and they have an easier run in then most.  

It wouldn’t be surprising if they finish in the top three, with poor form over Easter that could be seen as nothing more than a minor hiccup in the grand scheme of things. 

Our earlier preview noted that Stevenage were given promotion odds of 9/1; at the current time of writing those odds have shortened to 1/7. However, the team isn’t firing on all cylinders, and they might have to settle for a spot in the play-offs if they fall at the final hurdle. 

Next up is Mansfield Town, who are unbeaten in the last 8 in League 2. A win for Stevenage could take them into 2nd place. Not bad for one of the smaller sides in the league, who have already surpassed expectations at this stage in the season. 

 

 

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