REPORT | Wanderers 3 Stevenage 2

Sheehan Jerome goal celebration Stevenage

Three was the magic number for Wanderers as three times they led before wrapping up the three points which lifted them to third in League One, writes Pete Oliver.

Leading scorer Dion Charles and Jack Iredale both gave Wanderers the advantage but each time goals from Jamie Reid pegged them back as Stevenage fought tooth and nail to stay above Wanderers in the table.

Finally, though, a superbly-taken goal from Josh Sheehan 20 minutes from the end of normal time settled a riveting contest which ended with Ian Evatt’s men collecting a fourth home win of the season to move within five points of top spot.

Francis Lee tribute

The return of George Thomason from a one-game ban was Wanderers’ only change to the starting line-up from Saturday’s victory at Port Vale.

And having scored the winner at Port Vale, Charles picked up where he left off by giving the Whites an early lead.

Iredale’s sharp reactions earned Wanderers a spot-kick when he was fouled by Stevenage defender Dan Butler after reached Randell Williams’ corner first.

Charles accepted the chance to coolly roll home his eighth goal in nine games to give Wanderers the perfect start with 12 minutes gone in a fitting moment after the Whites had paid tribute to earlier penalty king Francis Lee following his passing on Monday.

But Stevenage – whose away record was as good as anyone’s in the division – had served notice of their intentions with some early pressure and they were quickly level.

Charles penalty Stevenage

Wanderers’ own attack broke down just outside the visitors’ penalty area with a long ball forward then picking out Reid on the break and Stevenage's top scorer did the rest by holding off Eoin Toal to deliver a tidy finish.

The Whites certainly didn’t have it all their own way as Boro hassled and harried Evatt’s men out of possession and only allowed them to play their passing game in fits and starts as they deservedly went into the break level.

Wanderers knew they had to raise their levels and made the ideal start to the second half.

The lively Williams forced Taye Ashby-Hammon into a save at the cost of a corner and when Sheehan delivered deep to the back post, Iredale arrived perfectly on cue to ram home a perfectly executed volley.

Iredale goal Stevenage

Wanderers’ invention from set-pieces created another half-chance for Kyle Dempsey as Evatt’s men looked to earn themselves some added breathing space with Stevenage far from a beaten side.

And so it proved with just over an hour gone as substitute Cameron Jerome fouled Carl Piergianni as the pair challenged for a free-kick and from the resulting penalty Reid slotted home his second of the night to make it 2-2.

Neither side was prepared to settle for a point, though, and Wanderers quickly regained the initiative with a high-quality goal.

This time Iredale was the provider with a typically accurate long ball from the back which was chested down on the run by Sheehan, who then twisted and turned just inside the box before clinically steering the ball home with his right foot to claim his first league goal of the season.

Iredale celebration Stevenage

It was gripping stuff and still Wanderers weren’t over the line as Nathan Baxter was forced to make a stunning save to keep out a fierce volley from Jake Forster-Caskey.

Reid also missed a decent late chance to complete his hat-trick but Wanderers again showed their resilience and collective spirit to dig in and negotiate eight minutes of injury time and secure another important win ahead of two more home games either side of the international break.

Wanderers: Baxter; Forrester, Toal, Iredale; Thomason; Dacres-Cogley, Sheehan, Dempsey, Williams (Ashworth 86); Charles (Bodvarsson 83), Nlundulu (Jerome 60). Substitutes: Coleman, Morley, Khumbeni, Matheson.

Booked: Thomason, Iredale, Jerome

Stevenage: Ashby-Hammond; Wildin, Sweeney, Piergianni (N Thompson 84), Butler; L Thompson (Freeman 74), Vancooten (Burns HT), Forster-Caskey (List 86); Roberts (MacDonald 87); Reid, Pressley. Substitutes: Hegyi, Hemmings.

Booked: Reid, Sweeney

Referee: Josh Smith

Attendance: 17,997 (223 away)

Read Time: 4 mins