Football: FA Cup - Beevor exploits Cambridge's double dismissal

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The Independent Online
Stevenage Borough 2

Cambridge United 1

Stevenage, nearer the bottom than top of the Vauxhall Conference, reached the third round of the FA Cup for the second successive season last night when Cambridge United forfeited the chance to meet Swindon Town after having two men sent off in the first half.

Stevenage had set out in the Cup this season with justifiable high expectations. After their adventure last term when they eventually conceded to Birmingham City, they were not looking at the prospect of another appearance in the third round as a chance in a lifetime, more a probable lifeline to money in the bank.

They had almost got through without the need for a replay, but Cambridge had scrambled a draw late in the first meeting. Stevenage had been reduced to 10 men when their full-back Ryan Kirby was sent off, so missing most of the second half. Worse followed on Saturday when they lost to bottom club Gateshead and saw the central defender Steve Holden become the victim of a hamstring injury.

Paul Fairclough, the Stevenage manager, came up with the original idea of giving his pre-match pep talk over the public address, which raised the crowd a shade more than his team since after 20 minutes his side had hesitantly weathered several threatening Cambridge attacks while raising none of their own.

Martin Butler threatened them more than most, scored, then ruined everything by being sent off. His goal, after 17 minutes, came from a surprise 20- yard shot, and his sending-off arrived three minutes later for hacking at Steve Perkins and following up with some heckling against the referee.

From the previous evidence, Stevenage were badly in need of help from wherever it came, but they could hardly have expected to be facing nine men by half-time. Paul Wanless could have no argument about being sent off when heavily heading Kirby rather than the ball. Moments later Michael Love's free-kick deflected in off Jamie Campbell for the equaliser.

Not surprisingly, Cambridge were reduced to counter- attacking in small numbers. Even so, Stevenage struggled to produce significant shots on target, though Dean Wordsworth did drive against the foot of the post.

Stuart Beevor, a pupil when Fairclough was schoolteaching in Hatfield, had worked relentlessly all through and more than deserved to show Stevenage the way to finish when, after 75 minutes, he scored his first goal of the season, powering in a fierce shot from Wordsworth's centre.

Cambridge will rue their rash behaviour but if Stevenage can make such a task of beating a nine-man team that was not all that impressive when having 11, Swindon should not be too concerned.

Stevenage Borough (4-4-2): Gallagher; Kirby, Smith, Trott, March; Beevor, Perkins, Trebble, Love; Crawshaw, Wordsworth. Substitutes not used: Stadhart, Johansen, Fenton, Meah, Chang (gk).

Cambridge United (5-2-1-2): Barrett; Chenery, Ashbee, Foster (Joseph, 45), Campbell, Wilson (Barnwell, 83); Wanless, Beall; Butler; Benjamin, Taylor (Kyd, h-t). Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Preece.

Referee: B Coddington (Sheffield).