Perennial strugglers of previous seasons, Stevenage are now enjoying life at the right end of the table: they’re top of League Two with 10 wins from 13 games.
Sitting on 31 points, Boro have already amassed 66% of last season’s points tally, 52% of their 2020-21 total and nine more than they accrued over 36 games of a doomed 2019-20 campaign.
Natives, perhaps, could be forgiven for pinching themselves at such a strong start under Steve Evans, who’s side are seven points clear in the automatic promotion race and 10 ahead of sides outside the play-offs.
“Honestly it feels like we’re dreaming!” says Matt Farley from The Stevenage FC Podcast.
“Knowing that we’ve been largely a bottom four club in League Two for the past five years and then all of a sudden hitting the heights of 1st place this season, it feels unreal!
“I can’t put into words how happy I am to see the club 1st!
“Prior to this season we had a feeling that we’d be in the top half due to the players we signed, but we never ever thought we’d be 1st going into October, crazy!
“To go along with this too, it’s the first ever time we’ve been top of a league in the EFL after a weekend of matches!”
One of the reasons why Stevenage sit top of the tree has been their ability to get on the right side of fine margins.
Their first eight league wins all came by a solitary goal – a trend they repeated three times in cup competitions – which speaks to the defensive resilience that Evans has drilled into his team.
“We’ve been saying that our identity revolves around our defence and ultimately the players back there are winning us a lot of points.
“Also, when I say winning us a lot of points, I don’t just mean defensively: our defenders have chipped in with goals too and we’ve worked out that they have won us more than 12 points in the league!
“But good sides have the ability to consistently keep clean sheets, we’ve done that five times in our 13 games!”
After 3-0 and 2-0 victories over Sutton and Swindon respectively, Matt feels there is now more of a swagger to the side on top of that defensive base.
“We’ve been on the cusp of beating a team by three or four over the opening 2 months, but in a lot of our games we just couldn’t convert the majority of our chances.
“It seems like the penny has finally dropped in our attacking play.
“Three of our attacking players – Jamie Reid, Luke Norris and Jordan Roberts – have scored four goals in all competitions and we’re starting to see that consistency up top.
“Roberts in my opinion is our most underrated player. You could see in the opening game of the season his ability and he has got better and better.
“Steve is playing him in a position which gives him the freedom to get on the ball and create. He has been one of my players of the season so far!”
Roberts’ success points to an excellent summer of recruitment, even though it was also a busy one with 13 signings including four loans and 19 players departing permanently.
“Getting the deals early massively helped,” says Matt, on the importance of agreeing nine of the arrivals before July.
“We all knew at the club that we only retained about 7 players and needed to build a new team from scratch and when I say new team, a team that could compete in the top half.
“Luckily we were able to pin down a lot of our new players early into June which then allowed a lot of the new players to relocate and to get a real feel for the football club.
“Also recruiting these players early took away any chance of other clubs signing any of our new players, which was a bonus.”
Although so much emphasis has been on the recruitment, Matt is keen to point out the improvement in players who remain at Broadhall Way from the previous campaign, thanks to Evans’ guidance.
“We’ve seen a huge improvement with some of the players who we retained.
“Terence Vancooten and Luther Wildin are playing their best football that we’ve seen at the club. A noticeable improvement, but mainly down to playing in certain positions where you see the best of them.
“Jamie Reid is another. We’re starting to see how good Jamie really is this season up top.
“But ultimately, a lot of the ones retained are playing with players who are cut from a different cloth to anyone we’ve seen here over the past three years and because of that, we’re starting to see their ability.
With that in mind, Matt thinks Stevenage are the real deal.
“Prior to the season, we all thought potentially we’ve got something special here. We won every single pre-season friendly and the outlook was exciting.
“But after seeing us in 13 of the league games and 4 games in the cup, we look like a seriously good side.
“We’ve won every single home match this season, 21 points out of a possible 21 to be exact, through in all the cups and already have 10 wins on the board from 13 in the league.
“I’ve said this many times over the past two months: if players stay fit – due to our 19 man squad – I can see us getting promotion! It’s going to be exciting!”
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