Blues snatch late draw in Boro battle
Stevenage 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1
For the second week in a row Wycombe snatched a stoppage time equaliser to bank a precious point in their quest to avoid the drop.
Their muscle-bound hosts had taken the lead after 85 minutes when Michael Bostwick curled a shot past Nikki Bull, but justice was done when Grant Basey stretched the Blues' unbeaten run to six games by coolly converting a 93rd minute penalty awarded for a foul on Craig Eastmond.
Eastmond had suffered all afternoon at the hands of a cynical Boro side who had clearly earmarked him for special attention right from the start as they lived up to their reputation for poor sportsmanship.
In an off-the-ball incident when the game was only a few minutes old, Lawrie Wilson ran up to the Arsenal loanee and unceremoniously flattened him from behind. It was a sign of things to come as the Blues were kicked, tripped, held, pushed, and generally fouled throughout the course of the game.
Boro would call it playing to their strengths.
The football wasn't great from either side in an easily forgettable first-half. Stuart Beavon fired an early free-kick narrowly wide before Bull made a fine save from Scott Laird during a concerted spell of home-pressure after 15 minutes.
Chris Hackett fired one wide for Wycombe before Boro villain Wilson missed an absolute sitter when presented with an open goal thanks to a fine run and cut-back from Darius Charles.
Wilson fired another shot over the bar shortly afterwards, while at the other end Hackett had one blocked by keeper Chris Day and Strevens could only fire the rebound into the side netting.
Boro started the second half strongly with a Mark Roberts header whistling just over the bar and shots from Freeman and Bostwick drawing saves from Blues' keeper Bull.
Prolific striker Beavon had two chances on the hour-mark, a close range effort that was blocked at the near post by Day and a strike from the edge of the box that flew narrowly over the crossbar.
Stuart Lewis also fired one over the top and Matt Bloomfield tried a shot from long range that Day comfortably saved.
At the other end, Bull came to the rescue again when he quickly narrowed the angle to thwart an onrushing Wilson at the near post.
With so much at stake, both sides put a tremendous amount of effort into today's game, and as we entered the last five minutes of normal time, on the balance of play, a draw looked about right.
Players were tiring on both sides, so it appeared to be a killer blow when Bostwick was allowed time and space on the edge of the Wycombe box and gratefully accepted the invitation to fire the ball home for what looked like the winner.
Roberts almost made it two with a header just over the bar, but the Blues weren't done yet and for the second week in a row they rescued a point right at the death.
Substitute Matt McClure played a neat one-two with Eastmond who carried the ball into the Boro box only to be brought down by Roberts.
There was delicious irony in the fact that the last and possibly most innocuous of Boro's countless fouls on Eastmond should cost them so dearly.
The fact that referee James Linington was brave enough to award the penalty came as something of a shock given the weakness in his overall handling of the game.
There were some frowns in the nerve-shredded away end as Grant Basey immediately claimed the ball. He wasn't high on people's list of likely penalty-takers, but hell, he looked confident, so he must know what he's doing, mustn't he?
Never fear, Day guessed correctly but Basey's penalty was struck too well, the net bulged, the crowd went wild and Wycombe had added another point to their tally.
Eastmond was man of the match in my book. Constantly fouled and with the burden of a yellow card to his name after only 13 minutes, the Arsenal youngster kept his head and still managed to play his normal game in the all important engine room of the side.
Gary Doherty gave another flawless performance and it was a delight to see home-grown youngster Anthony Stewart slot seamlessly alongside him in central defence.
Line-up & ratings
Bull (7), McCoy (6), Doherty (7), Stewart (6), Basey (6), Bloomfield (6), Eastmond (8), Lewis (6) (McClure 89 (n/a)), Strevens (5), Hackett (5) (Ainsworth 89 (n/a)), Beavon (6).