Stevenage 1 PNE 4Two goals in each half, scored by Stuart Beavon, Jack King, Jeffrey Monakana and Nicky Wroe gave PNE a comprehensive win against Graham Westley's former club.
In a superb team performance the Lilywhites dominated the Hertforshire side, despite the visitors pegging North End's great start back with an early equaliser.
Beavon got the Lilywhites off to a flying start, smashing home Holmes’ poked pass, but Tansey’s long-range effort levelled things up on the 15 minute mark, however, King scored from close range just after the half hour mark.
The second half was a superb show of professionalism and clinicalness with Monakana and Wroe adding efforts from similar spots on the edge of the 'D'...
Manager Graham Westley, on his return to Broadhall Way, had made three changes, one of them enforced by the suspension of Paul Huntington, with Monakana, Welsh and Holmes in for the aforementioned centre half, Joel Byrom and David Amoo.
And North End got off to what has become a trademark fast start, Stevenage unable to clear a hopeful ball into the box and Lee Holmes, starting his first game since injuring his knee againdst Bournemouth back in August, maged to poke a foot in to direct the ball into the path of Stuart Beavon who fired a powerful right foot effort through Steve Arnold and into the back of the net.
It could, and perhaps should, have been 2-0 just three minutes later when Scott Laird, returning to left back against his former employers, broke down the flank before firing goalwards. Arnold made a fine save but it came back out to Holmes around ten yards out, but he could only direct his shot wide left.
The home side capitalised on this on the quarter hour mark, former PNE trialist Filipe Morais winning a corner on the left before they worked a quick one, getting the ball out to Greg Tansey 25 yards out, who curled his effort over a crowd of players and into top right hand corner.
This was a rare chance for ‘Boro’ and a rare foray into the North End half during the opening period as Graham Westley’s men dominated possession and the chances.
On 19 minutes a tremendously worked free kick - similar to the routine at Scunthorpe – saw a better connection by Nicky Wroe, but his effort whistled over cross bar from 25 yards.
The home side were restricted to counter-attacking and Marcus Haber broke with pace through middle midway through the half but poor control meant Steve Simonsen was able to come out and smother.
North End regained the lead just after the half hour mark. Jack King fired home with deflection off Stevenage’s skipper Mark Roberts after great wing play on the left by Jeffrey Monakana . The frontman’s scuffed effort flicked up and over keeper by home side captain, but it owed a lot to the work of the PNE No.17. playing on the left flank.
Just before half-time the Lilywhites twice went close to extending their lead, Bondz N-Gala headed against the outside of his own post from Holmes’ right wing cross after King appeared to be pushed in the box. Then from Wroe’s deep corner to the back post, Robertson headed wide from eight yards out.
In the third minute of stoppage time Beavon broke, taking the ball off Grant and raced through, but his shot from edge of box well saved by Arnold.
North End and Nicky Wroe had the ball in the net in the first minute of the second half, but it was ruled out for a foul by the midfield man.
But before the hour mark they had scored and it was Jeffrey Monakana who picked the ball up by winning a 50/50 on the edge of the centre circle, exchanging a pass with John Welsh and then driving at the heart of the defence before firing low from 25 yards out into the bottom left hand corner.
And on 72 minutes it was four! It was a superb move as Beavon picked up the ball down the right, held it up and laid it off to Jeffrey Monakana. He in turn played it into Jack King on the edge of the box who again laid it off, this time to Nicky Wroe who curled a superb right footer from the edge of the 'D' into the bottom right hand corner - a superb team goal.
On 78 minutes Monakana - who needed to be substituted after the foul - was brought down in the box, but it proved to be another penalty not awarded, despite the winger having to be replaced and stretchered off, David Buchanan returning to replace him.
North End continued to press even after Monakana's worrying departure with Beavon going close with a header and then the same man was denied by a fantastic save from Arnold after a snapshot from Buchanan's clever ball into his feet.
As the clock ticked down Scott Laird was inches away from marking his return to Stevenage with a well-worked goal. The slick passing move seeing the No.3 fire inches wide from the left hand channel after a one-two with Nicky Wroe.
Stevenage Line-Up: Arnold, Gray, Charles, Tansey (Agyemang, 61), Grant, Dunne, Haber (Shroot, 81), Morais (Freeman, 68), Akins, Roberts, N’Gala. Subs not used: Day, Hills, Rogers, Risser.
PNE Line-Up: Simonsen, Keane, Laird, Welsh, Wright, Robertson, Monakana (Buchanan, 80), Wroe, Beavon, King (Cummins, 90), Holmes (Mousinho, 64). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Sodje, Byrom, Procter.
Attendance: 3,740 (556 away fans)
: Mr S AttwellReferee