Two rounds remain of this season’s regular League Two campaign, currently with the Stags in the final automatic promotion spot despite the Easter Monday defeat at Oldham, a fixture where the Stags wrongly got a goal disallowed in injury time. Had it stood, the Stags had gained a point.
Still, if we win on Saturday and our main rivals MK Dons and Bury as well as Forest Green and Tranmere bottle it, the Stags might be very very close to automatic promotion.
Meanwhile, our opponents Stevenage still have an outside chance to claim the final playoff spot. The top six (apart from already promoted Lincoln City) are at least guaranteed a playoff spot.
Earlier this season just before last Christmas, the Stags came back very strongly at Stevenage. After undeservedly having fallen behind just before half-time, the Stags turned the game around in the second half to emerge as winners to a 3-1 scoreline.
This season, Stevenage have been inconsist but have won three out of their last four League Two, but drew 1-1 at home to Exeter on Easter Monday. A Stevenage win there had seen them just creep into the playoff zone. But have they blown it now ? Maybe.
The sides faced each other during the first two of the Stags' five campaigns outside the FL. And none of the four clashes between the sides did finish with eleven players for one of the sides.
Almost exactly ten years ago, on April 26, 2009, the sides played out the final fixture at Field Mill of the 2008-09 season. Just on the stroke of half-time, four minutes into injury-time, Stevenage got Cole red-carded and suspended for their then forth-coming play-off semi-finals and the FA Trophy in a game won 2-1 by the Stags, all goals screamers, O'Connor netting the winner two minutes from time.
On September 12, 2009, the Stags were 2-0 up when Kyle Perry was red-carded deep into first-half injury-time. In the eighth (!) minute of that, then ex-Stag Chris Beardsley reduced the lead by scoring for Stevenage. And in the second, two goals from Stevenage ended the Stags' unbeaten home record under Dave Holdsworth, which was to be fifteen games spread over two seasons. But a player who was a Stag last tern, Joel Byrom, played for Stevenage in that game and oversaw the Stevenage rise from the Conf to League One in successive seasons. Byrom has now returned to Stevenage and played against the Stags last December, having played in all Stevenage League Two fixtures so far, but three as sub. He also played in Stevenage’s first-ever FL game, a 2-2 home draw against Macclesfield on August 7, 2010. Another player who left the Stags for Stevenage before this term is Johnny Hunt, who also played last time out. Tyler Walker played a few games for Stevenage on loan during the 2016-17 campaign, scoring twice in his first Stevenage game, a 6-1 home rout of Hartlepool on September 3, 2016.
Beardsley was a few seasons ago in his third and final Stags spell. Meanwhile, Beardsley did have two spells at Stevenage as well, the first one starting in the 2009-10 season. Beardsley also played for Bristol Rovers in the final game of the 2013-14 campaign, when the Stags won 1-0 there sending Bristol Rovers out of the FL for one season.
Last season’s 1-1 draw at Stevenage was the first-ever between the sides. And the 2-1 defeat at One Call in October 2016 was to be Adam Murray’s final FL home fixture as Stags manager.
This season is Stevenage's ninth in the FL. In their first-ever campaign, Stevenage reached the League Two playoff final, then beat Torquay, becoming just another side to go straight through the basement league following promotion to the FL. Others who have made it from the BSP /now National League/ to current League one in successive seasons during the last two decades include Doncaster, Exeter, Macclesfield, Crawley and Wycombe.
In Stevenage's first League One season, they reached the playoff semifinals finishing the League campaign in sixth place. Since then, they slid down the table to eventually relegation in 2013-14. But that did not distract from reaching the FA Cup fourth round and a bumper home fixture against Everton. But two other sides which have played in the current PL did fail to win at Stevenage in recent seasons. Newcastle were kayoed in a third round game on January 8, 2011, but Tottenham needed a replay to go through the following campaign.
Below is a run-down on current and previous clubs in Stevenage:
If the preview readers think that the current Stevenage club is the only one from that place that has been playing since WW II, the readers are completely wrong. The previewer has found TWO previous Stevenage clubs prior to the current one. Here are some facts:
* In 1963-64 (the Stags first-ever season as a promoted side, finishing seventh, unbeaten at home, scoring in EVERY home fixture in the old Third Division), a club named Stevenage Town were elected to the old Southern League, finishing a highly creditable sixth above sides like Crawley, Burton and Gravesend & Northfleet (now Ebbsfleet). Two other top-half finishes followed before a third place in 1966-67 was enough to secure promotion to the Southern League Premier Division. Despite finishing well clear above the relegation places in 18th spot, financial problems apparently were too much, and Stevenage Town folded at the end of the 1967-68 campaign.
* Upon the ruins of Stevenage Town, a club named Stevenage Athletic came into being and were elected to Southern League Division One in 1970-71. There, they finished 16th, just below Salisbury and recent League One outfit Cheltenham. But Stevenage Athletic did not last that long in the Southern League. After a few seasons, culminating in finishing rock-bottom with six wins, 30 defeats and 105 goals put past them in 1975-76, Stevenage went into liquidation on August 13, 1976, just a few days before the start of our second 1970's championship campaign, securing Division II football at Field Mill for the first time. Stevenage Athletic opponents in the 1975-76 season included Kidderminster, Barnet, Cheltenham and a club named Milton Keynes City!
* A third try to establish football in Stevenage followed, now named Stevenage Borough. After the bankruptcy of Stevenage Athletic, Stevenage Borough was formed and joined the United Counties League in 1980-81. After playing a few seasons in the United Counties League Premier Division, i.e. against both predecessors of Rushden & Diamonds, Stevenage switched to the Isthmian League at the end of the 1983-84 season. After two seasons at their second level, the Championship was won in 1985-86. Opponents in Stevenage's first Isthmian League Division One campaign included recent BSP sides Grays and Lewes. Another opponent was the 2007-08 season's Stockport FA Cup giant-killer Staines. Some up-and-down followed before Stevenage won the Isthmian League Division Two Championship big style in 1990-91 with 107 points, scoring 122 goals in the process. Two other promotions followed culminating in Stevenage entering the Conference in the 1994-95 season, finishing fifth.
In the following season, Stevenage became the second club of three in three seasons running (the others were Kidderminster in 1993-94 and Macclesfield the following campaign) not to be allowed into the FL due to ground regulations (Torquay were rock-bottom in Division Three that 1995-96 season). Although Stevenage took the matter very far, there was no way into the League. Since then, Stevenage remained a non-league upper house outfit, mostly top-half, and had another chance to gain league status in 2004-05 before finally winning in 2009-10. Then in 2005, the Broadhall Way side (as far as the previewer knows, the previous Stevenage clubs also played at Broadhall Way) lost the playoff final by the only goal of the game to Carlisle in the Cumbrians' only season outside the FL after WW II.
In the late 1990's, Stevenage Borough also made FA Cup heroics. In 1996-97, Stevenage reached the third round after kayoeing famous FA Cup side Leyton Orient away. The reward was a home tie against Birmingham. But the FA deemed the Stevenage ground not suitable for that game, so the tie was played at St Andrews, where 15365 watched the then Division One side win only 2-0. In the following season, Stevenage fared even better. After needing replays against Carshalton and Cambridge United to go through, Stevenage were drawn away to then Division One Swindon in round three. Well there at the County Ground, a venue known to the previewer, Stevenage sprang a giant-killing! Despite being 1-0 down after just six minutes, Stevenage turned the tie and won 2-1 in front of 9422! Ref then was a well-known one to several match report writers, Scott Mathieson from Cheshire. The Stevenage reward for the giant-killing was a bumper home tie against Newcastle! This time around, Stevenage would not allow the plum home tie to be played at any other venue than Broadhall Way. A record 8040 crowd saw Stevenage excel themselves. Despite an early Shearer goal (he was some years later to score the only Magpies goal in an FA Cup Round 3 tie against the Stags), Stevenage fought back and got their reward just before half-time, when Grazioli sent the game into a replay at St James' Park. Well there, Stevenage caused Newcastle (remember Bedford in 1964, Hereford in 1972) all sorts of problems. Once again, the Magpies had to rely on Alan Shearer. His goals sent Newcastle 2-0 up but Stevenage were by no means finished. The proof: Crawshaw pulled one back in front of over 36000 with a quarter to go. In 2003-04, Stevenage kayoed Stockport in the first round before going out at Swansea in the second round. And in 2006-07, the Borough won the FA Trophy by beating Kidderminster 3-2 in the final. Stevenage have now dropped the Borough from their club name.
Although the Stags before the 2008-09 season never had faced any Stevenage side before, there had been some player traffic between the sides. By the time of the February 9 2010 BSP preview, Jamie Campbell, Lee Howarth, Richard Pacquette, Gary Mills and Michael Brough were mentioned. A check on players during the update of more recent previews revealed a few more players that had played for the Stevenage before joining the Stags. One of those is the much-travelled Jefferson Louis, figuring in many previews during the last decade. Two years before netting the 90th minute winner at Wycombe in front of the previewer, Louis played 18 games, six of those as sub, scoring on six occasions, for Stevenage during the 2005-06 season. A few seasons earlier, Michael Blackwood played a few years at Broadhall way aka Lamex Stadium. Simon Heslop came, just like Luke Jones, to the Stags from Stevenage during the close-season of 2013-14. One Stags loanee in goal in 2014-15, Adam Smith from Leicester, was on loan at Stevenage the previous season without playing. A little more than a decade earlier, Scott Eustace was on the Stevenage books without playing in the BSP aka Vanarama League.
Total list of players having played for both sides: Chris Beardsley, Michael Blackwood, Michael Brough, Joel Byrom, Jamie Campbell, Iyseden Christie, Craig Dobson, Luke Foster, Simon Heslop, Pat Hoban, Lee Howarth, Johnny Hunt, Luke Jones, Jefferson Louis, Junior Mendes, Gary Mills, Aaron O’Connor, Richard Pacquette, Peter Vincenti, Tyler Walker, Sam Wedgbury.
Home: P 6, W 4, D 0, L 2, GF 9, GA 7
Away: P 7, W 3, D 1, L 3, GF 10, GA 11
Season Home Date Away Date
2008-09 2-1 2009-04-26 2-3 2008-10-07 BSP
2009-10 2-3 2009-09-12 1-3 2010-02-09 BSP
2014-15 1-0 2015-02-07 0-3 2014-09-27 League Two
2015-16 2-1 2016-01-09 2-0 2015-09-29 League Two
2016-17 1-2 2016-10-29 1-0 2017-04-22 League Two
2017-18 1-0 2017-11-18 1-1 2018-04-10 League Two
2018-19 (at Stevenage) 3-1 2018-12-22 League Two
Expect a good game this Saturday. Hopefully the final home preview this campaign. Come on Mansfield!