Stevenage dominated from start to finish in a magnificent 5-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday at The Lamex Stadium, as Graham Westley's side sent a message to the rest of League One.
An astonishing first half performance from Stevenage saw goals from Craig Reid, John Mousinho, Michael Bostwick and Lawrie Wilson give the home side a 4-0 half time lead before Darius Charles made it 5 after the break. As Boro stepped of the gas The Owls pulled one back through Gary Madine but in truth, the game was over by then.
It was the perfect response from Stevenage who were frustrating in a 1-1 draw at Oldham on Saturday, and the win moves them into the League One play off places. Wednesday were reduced to 10 men with minutes of the game remaining but describing the win over a ten man Sheffield Wednesday would take away from the comfortable nature of the victory for the Boro side.
Boro beat The Owls 5-1 with a fantastic home display
Graham Westley made two changes to the side that played just three days ago at Oldham Athletic, including the inclusion of Jon Ashton as Mark Roberts partner at the heart of the defence. This meant that Michael Bostwick moved into the centre of midfield with Joel Byrom out of the squad whilst Chris Beardsley had to settle for a place on the bench as Stacy Long was promoted to the starting line up.
With Sheffield Wednesday practically selling out the South Stand and the East Terrace filling up nicely it was set up for another electric evening at The Lamex Stadium. As the teams made way to the pitch the stadium erupted with both sets of fans contributing to an intense atmosphere.
In a fantastic start from the home side, Boro could have had two goals inside just three minutes. First they won a free kick after Charles had been upended, the ball was curled into the box and somehow bounced to Michael Bostwick at the back post but a last ditch dive from goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell got enough on the ball to turn it onto the woodwork. Seconds later Lawrie Wilson progressed up the pitch well after receiving the ball from Stacy Long, he laid it out to Ronnie Henry on the wing who played it into Craig Reid in the box, the attacker had his back to goal but laid the ball off to Stacy Long who had progressed towards the edge of the box, he struck the ball well but a deflection sent the goal bound shot wide for a corner.
Again Stevenage pressured and this time it was John Mousinho with the chance to shoot; he ran well onto a ball over the top from Long and tried to lob O'Donnell who was off his line, the goalkeeper managed to get his fingers to it to deny the midfielder the goal, but moments later he would have expected to do a lot better. Darius Charles went on a trademark drive forward before his tame shot hit a defender and fell to Bostwick, he in turn pulled his trademark out, with a rocket from the edge of the box which was parried by O'Donnell. The in form Reid then pounced on it with all the spirit that the Boro faithful had hoped to see from him since joining for a record fee and smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
Reid tucks the ball into the net after O'Donnell fumble
The unbelievable start from Stevenage showed no signs of stopping and again they attacked, Charles was again part of some good build up for Boro and he flicked the ball through to Mousinho nicely to send the midfielder through on goal. He took the ball forward with space in front of him before rifling a shot towards goal, there was so much power on the ball that the back of the net rippled before O'Donnell had even pounced and sent the delirious home fans into ecstasy as Boro took a 2-0 lead with just 7 minutes on the clock.
It could have very easily been 3 for the home side with 13 minutes gone after another dangerous cross into the box almost connected perfectly with the incoming Charles but he must have missed the ball by millimetres and it bounced wide of the goal.
For the first time in the game Wednesday attacked and Jon Ashton done well to get the right side of the attacker and send the ball out for a corner. It was crossed in dangerously and Mark Roberts rose above the rest to header it over for another corner to the away side. With that ball cleared they dropped the ball right back into the danger zone but again Roberts was there to meet it and head it clear in a frantic opening quarter of an hour down Broadhall Way.
In a moment of absolute brilliance it was three for Boro with just 17 minutes gone. A clever corner was played to Bostwick outside of the area, it was slightly behind the midfielder but he managed to get a touch on it, seemingly off balance he put his foot through the ball and expertly sent it into the right hand side of the goal where it hit the inside of the post and nestled in the back of the net.
There was no let up for O'Donnell in the Wednesday goal, who seemed a man under constant attack. Lawrie Wilson was the next to test him with well hit effort but the 'keeper managed to get his hands behind it.
The Owls had their best chance of the opening 20 minutes after some good build up play. Ben Marshall found himself in possession just outside of the Stevenage area and he dropped his shoulder well to wrong foot Ashton before sending a shot towards the top corner, in line with the performance of his outfield team mates Chris Day dived superbly and tipped the shot over the bar to keep Boro in control.
You could not take your eyes of the game for even a second as Stevenage continued to attack, and they produced another chance on 25 minutes. Charles turned well on the ball and sent it through to Reid who had a defender to his side, he tried to bring it forward and make some space to get a shot away but Wednesday captain Rob Jones made a good last ditch challenge to stop the danger.
The away side were finding it very difficult to play their football and looked almost shell shocked when in possession. So many touches were loose and often long balls were going out of play but Liam Palmer showed that they could still pose a threat, and also the pace that he possesses, getting the ball down the left wing. His cross into the box wasn't too dangerous but it was a warning to the Boro team that they couldn't rest on their laurels.
When things go your way, they go your way, and a fortuitous goal went into the net for Boro with 10 minutes of the first half remaining. They got the ball into the box and Mousinho hit a shot towards the goal, it cannoned off of a defender and the onrushing Lawrie Wilson stuck out a leg and knocked the ball passed the 'keeper to make it 4-0.
As Boro celebrated, the Sheffield Wednesday fans vented their frustration with chants of 'You're not fit to wear the shirt' and 'We want out money back'. Some supporters even left The Lamex Stadium with the first half not even finished whilst in stark contrast the East Terrace was rocking with the Boro fans in dream land.
Before the half was over Stevenage had one more chance. Charles again brought it forward before he eventually got the ball to Mousinho, he played it out to Wilson on the right hand side of the area but it was too far in front of him to get a shot away. Instead, he got it under control and laid it back to Bostwick who had another fierce shot but Jones managed to make the block.
After the first half display from his side, Gary Megson made all three changes at half time. Julian Bennett, David Prutton and their captain Rob Jones were all hauled off with James O'Conner, Reda Johnson and Jermaine Johnson replacing them. On the other hand, there were no changes to Westley's side.
Five minutes into the second half it was almost a sum up of the game for the Owls as they finally strung some passes together and dinked a good ball into the box for Clinton Morrison, before the striker totally missed the ball when trying to volley it into Day's net. Boro then broke and Mousinho had another decent shot from the edge of the area but a good block came in to deny him another effort on target.
Ten minutes of the second half had passed by with Boro still in control; the travelling support ironically cheered their side when they strung 5 passes together but this soon ended and a confident Reid cheekily flicked the ball goal wards with a back heel volley from a Wilson cross, the 'keeper wasn't ever in trouble but it was another good sign from the striker. Westley took Mousinho off as on loan midfielder Josh Walker was brought onto the field, he'd have big boots to fill after an incredible performance from Mousinho.
Captain Mark Roberts almost made it two goals in two games after a teasing Josh Walker cross zipped towards the back post, the defender tried to send the ball towards the far post but it bounced wide.
Reda Johnson had only been on the field for 15 minutes after coming on at half time into the centre of defence, but he was having a torrid time of it. He seemed very cautious at the back and almost scared of what Boro possessed with many balls forward troubling him.
The good nature between the two sets of supporters continued with chants of 'Can you score a goal for us' coming from the away stand. On the pitch Boro continued to control the game and were attacking almost at will, teasing the Wednesday defence with their passing all over the field. Myrie Williams soon came on to replace Stacy Long as Boro injected even more pace into the side.
Darius Charles scored a real striker's finish as Boro made it 5-0 on 67 minutes. Wilson intuitively took the ball from Reid on the edge of the area and brought it into the box before squaring it to Charles, he turned his defender with ease and just as he looked as though he'd be crowded out he almost passed the ball into the bottom corner to the delight of the home support. It was the first goal in front of the away stand and one which triggered a mass exit from the travelling support.
Darius Charles celebrates his first and Boro's fifth
Despite the score line, you knew that if Boro were to concede then Westley wouldn't be happy. On 73 minutes this did happen and it was Gary Madine who put it away. He received the ball in the box with way too much space before slotting the ball home, a lapse in concentration that you doubt you'd see from the Boro defence if they weren't so comfortable.
Phil Edwards was the last of Westley's substitutes, coming on to replace Reid who received a standing ovation from the thankful Boro fans.
Both sides seemed to know that the game was over and this was reflected in the play on the pitch as the game edged into the last ten minutes. Boro fans chanted 'we want six' as their side attacked but a Bostwick header cannoned off the post, with the offside flag in the air that would have denied a goal anyway.
In a sour end to the game, Sheffield Wednesday's night went from bad to worse on 86 minutes. Half time substitute Jermaine Johnson was shown a straight red card after the linesman had desperately flagged for an off the ball incident with Scott Laird and after being shown the red he seemed to head towards the linesman in anger, he was pulled away from the official by a team mate before leaving the pitch to a chorus of boos.
There was to be no more action after the red card as the referee called time on a great game for Stevenage.
Stevenage (4-4-2): Day - Henry, Roberts, Ashton, Laird - Wilson, Mousinho (Walker 54), Bostwick, Long (Myrie-Williams 65) - Charles, Reid (Edwards 76)
Unused Subs: Julian, Beardsley
Attendance: 4339 (1337 Away)