After a fantastic start to our league campaign we now turn our attention to the Carling Cup and Stevenage. It’s a tough fixture for us, as no team will relish playing their football at Broadhall Way. It will be interesting to see how we cope with playing our slick, passing football against a side that are famed for their direct approach and high tempo pressing game.
Darren Ferguson has stressed that he is taking the game seriously and will be putting out his strongest line-up ahead of kick-off, showing that we are taking this competition seriously. We are due a decent run in the Carling Cup having suffered defeats in the early stages for much of a recent history, and it is important that we keep the winning habit and momentum going.
The Stevenage View
Ahead of Tuesday night’s clash we caught up with Stevenage blogger Matthew Kett (http://twitter.com/#!/fcboro) from the ever excellent http://fcboro.co.uk to discuss his thoughts of Graham Westley’s approach, Stevenage’s aims for the season and got his prediction for Tuesday night’s match.
What have the last couple of seasons been like to be a Stevenage fan? Back-to-back promotions is a tremendous achievement, it must have been pretty special.
It has been surreal. Graham Westley has built a young and hungry side that just keep on improving, no matter what is put in front of them. After 14 years of mediocrity in the Conference, it was such a massive relief to finally be promoted into the Football League in 2010. We would have taken a season of consolidation in League 2, but that is not this team’s style. They are winners and they get frustrated when they are not winning.
With success breeds jealousy and you have been somewhat harshly treated by fans and the press and have had a bit a negative reputation put upon you. Would you say that you are as much of a “nasty” team as some would make out?
We are not a pretty team to watch a lot of the time, but we are effective. We can play some good football, but Westley is known to be a long ball manager and he believes in this brand of football. It’s hard to argue about the style of football when the team is winning trophies though.
We have been given this “big and physical” tag by League 2 managers who were frustrated that they were getting turned over by little Stevenage last season. John Sheridan was one of the first to mention it and a lot of the Boro players were smaller than his side! It’s frustrating that this reputation we have earned ourselves is now at the forefront of the opposition and referee’s minds when we play. Any late tackle or decision against the opposition automatically brings these comments out. Accrington in the play-offs last season were a perfect example, when they were arguably “more physical” than ourselves.
Graham Westley appears to be a very innovative manager, despite his more “old-school” approach. Much work seems to be done on the fitness of the players and with them training 9 till 5 do you think that the effect has been a positive one?
A big failure of Westley’s team from his first spell as manager were the fitness levels. When Mark Stimson took over in the summer of 2006, he identified this problem very early on. When Westley returned in 2008, he straight away seemed to change his ways with regards to fitness and training. The 9-5 training sessions were implemented and it seems to be paying off. The players always look fit throughout the 90 minutes and it’s a big reason why our form seems to improve in the second half of the season.
Are you happy with your signings over the summer?
The names of the new signings were underwhelming, especially as we are preparing for a new level. However, Westley’s signings have been underwhelming before and have proved to be exactly what was required. Alan Julian will provide able back-up to Chris Day. Jennison Myrie-Williams and Robin Shroot will add a bit of creativity to an industrious midfield. Phil Edwards is a good player to have in the squad as he can play across the back as well as in midfield. Guy Madjo is a bit of an unknown quantity, especially at this level. He’s the one with the biggest question mark by him I’d say.
What are your realistic ambitions this season? I know your Chairman talked of making the play-offs but would you be happy just to consolidate?
I think realistically we should try and make sure we survive first and foremost. Phil Wallace (chairman) has given the usual bollocks that we’re aiming for another promotion and that the Championship is not an unrealistic target, but this year, it really is. We had a small budget in League 2, but will probably have the smallest budget in League 1. I think we will survive, but it will be a struggle.
Finally, what is your score prediction for the match on Tuesday night?
It’s going to be a really tough game. Peterborough will be favourites and I expect them to win the game by the odd goal. It will be nice to George Boyd back at Broadhall Way in a competitive match.
The Likely Line-Ups
Stevenage – Darius Charles: Charles has played the majority of his footballing career at left-back but was converted to a winger/striker by Graham Westley and has impressed with a series of excellent performances. Pacey and powerful, on his day he can be a real handful and very hard for defences to deal with. His versatility is also an asset, Charles often starts games up-front before reverting back to his more associated left-back position, and is a vital protagonist for Stevenage both in an attacking and defensive sense.
Peterborough – David Ball: After being brought in during the January transfer window Ball was expected to spend much of his time in the bench for last campaign but managed to force his way into the first team within months of joining after bagging a fair amount of goals. He did, however, lose his way a bit towards the back end of the campaign and ended up finding himself back in with the substitutes. With Nicky Ajose being brought in during the summer and Paul Taylor appearing to be coming more into contention for a starting berth it appeared his first team chances may be limited this season, but after scoring on the winner opening day – when an injury to Ajose allowed him to come off the bench early on – he will be determined to continue scoring and keep his place in the first team. Ball has the lowest minutes per goal ratio for Posh in recent history – http://www.uptheposh.com/records/playing/minutes_per_goal/ – and will be looking to show Ferguson that he is the natural born goalscorer that the stats suggest.
Match Odds – Prices with William Hill
Stevenage 6/4 - Draw 9/4 – Peterborough 7/5
Up The Posh