BORO BACK UP TO OLD TRICKS

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Matt Wright

THEY may be strug­gling to pick up points on the road but Steve­nage man­ager Gra­ham West­ley is see­ing Broad­hall Way be­come a fortress again after their lat­est home suc­cess against Ex­eter.

Dur­ing their rise from the Con­fer­ence to the League One play-offs, Steve­nage was a place no­body liked to visit – a fear fac­tor that had drifted away dur­ing the club’s rel­e­ga­tion of last sea­son.

But Charlie Lee’s late win­ner capped a strong fin­ish by the Boro, who have now won seven of the 11 matches they have played at home in the league this sea­son.

West­ley said:“We’ve done a lot of work on the train­ing ground to make sure that we re­gain that Steve­nage at­ti­tude of be­ing a strong side at the end of games.

“You can see that the play­ers have done ex­tra strength work and you could see in the last 15 min­utes that we were re­ally quite de­ter­mined to make sure we got the three points.

“Our home ground is start­ing to be­come that fortress again – we’re start­ing to get re­sults here and I think that’s now six wins in nine here now.

“We want to erad­i­cate the de­feats and the draws ob­vi­ously but it’s a step in the right di­rec­tion.”

Steve­nage suf­fered an early blow when striker Lee Barnard was forced off after 15 min­utes, but they were still cre­ated the game’s first chance. Dean Par­rett did well to bat­tle his way the by­line and cut the ball back for Ryan Brunt, whose back­heel from close range was kept out by Ex­eter goal­keeper James Ha­mon.

Alex Ni­cholls came within a whisker of giv­ing the Gre­cians the lead when he cut inside from the left be­fore bend­ing an ex­cel­lent shot against the bar.

Matt Oak­ley’s long ball was then flicked on by David Wheeler to put Ni­cholls through, whose ef­fort was this time kept out by the legs of Chris Day.

Tom Pett shot just wide for the hosts be­fore the cross­bar was left shak­ing for the sec­ond time when Lee’s half-vol­ley just didn’t dip early enough.

Both goal­keep­ers were en­sur­ing the game re­mained score­less with Ha­mon keep­ing out Brunt’s shot with his legs while Day then par­ried Danny But­ter­field’s spec­u­la­tive ef­fort from 30 yards.

But Lee proved to be Steve­nage’s hero with six min­utes left when he con­trolled Pett’s cross in the penalty area be­fore slid­ing a low shot into the far cor­ner.

This was Ex­eter’s first de­feat since their hu­mil­i­at­ing cup exit to War­ring­ton and their boss Paul Tis­dale said: “At some point we were go­ing to lose that un­beaten run and it wasn’t through a want of try­ing.

“It was a very, very tight game and the pitch was a bit of a lev­eller.

“Steve­nage had a re­ally de­ci­sive fo­cus about their play and put their game into ac­tion.

“We’ve got ours and con­sid­er­ing the sur­face, con­sid­er­ing the en­ergy and the ef­fort that Steve­nage put in to stop us I thought we played ex­tremely well. I’m proud of the team.”

PIC­TURES: Pin­na­cle

CHEEKY CHARLIE: Charlie Lee gives Steve­nage the lead with just six min­utes to go WHEELS ARE OFF: Ex­eter’s David Wheeler chases Charlie Adams

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