Inside Track: Stevenage
All you need to know about Wednesday's opponents.
Attention turns away from the Premier League on Wednesday as Everton welcome Graham Westley’s Stevenage in the Capital One Cup second round.
Boro got their season up and running on Saturday as an injury-time strike from midfielder James Dunne earned them their first points of the campaign at Notts County.
The 1-0 victory came on the back of league defeats against Oldham Athletic, Swindon Town and Leyton Orient.
Indeed, a shock 2-0 triumph over Championship Ipswich Town in the first round of the Capital One Cup had been the only highlight of a testing start for Westley's men.
Here journalist Damion Roberts offers an insight to what we can expect from our League One opponents…
Damion, Stevenage hadn’t enjoyed the best of starts until the weekend. What are your thoughts on the side’s performances so far this season?
The club has used 23 players already this season, which tells its own story. There isn’t a set XI yet – and when you’re looking at players to build relationships with team-mates on the pitch, having to consistently change a team isn’t helpful. Goals have been a problem too, and they suffered from a few injury problems at the start of the campaign. Lucas Akins was last season’s top scorer but he is likely to miss out on Wednesday due to an ankle injury. The game might come too soon for defender Ben Chorley as well.
What are Stevenage’s aspirations for the match against Everton? The Ipswich result was a shock. What is it about cup games that spurs the players on?
They’ll go to Goodison to win. That might sound grandiose, but a Graham Westley team will look to beat whoever they play. In the cup, it’s about the thrill of the win, the success and the pleasure players get from upsetting the odds. Quite a few players have dropped down the leagues after starting out at bigger clubs, so what better way of reminding people just how good they are than beating these sides?
How has the club grown since promotion to the Football League in 2010?
They've has had two promotions in recent seasons as well as a number of good runs in cup competitions. The money from that has seen improvements around the ground and the building of a new training facility at Bragbury End, on the edge of the town. Each player who has signed for the club has cited the training facility as one of the reasons they joined, and why not? The players spend most of their working week at Bragbury End. The fan base, though, has stalled a little. The average crowd size last season was just over 3,100. They’re a vocal bunch though - there’s always plenty of banter with the home support and it's always good natured.
What is the manager’s preferred style of play? What are his tactics? Any star men?
Graham Westley’s belief is that attitude is more important than ability, and you can see that drilled into his sides. He likes to go four at the back and four in midfield, though occasionally he will opt for a 4-2-3-1 formation. Don’t expect Boro to sit back and defend against Everton. Tactically he likes his sides to have a hard-working frontman who will hassle defenders into mistakes, and bring others into play. He likes central midfielders to get forward, and get shots off at goal. Luke Freeman has a trick or three, while Jon Ashton at the back has been with the club since their Conference days and is now club captain.
Like our own man Phil Jagielka, Ashton is new to that role this season. How has he adapted?
Well. Mark Roberts was the captain but he left for Fleetwood Town in the summer. Normally replacing a man who had led the side to two promotions and wore his heart on his sleeve would be difficult, but Ashton is a suitable replacement. He is a formidable opponent, just ask Jermain Defoe (Ashton threw the Spurs striker to the ground in an off-the-ball incident during an FA Cup game in 2012). If I were the captain of the opposition, I’d always be worried he’d crush my hand in the pre-match handshake!
Tickets for Wednesday's game against Stevenage are now on general sale, priced at £5 for juniors and £15 for adults. To join us at Goodison Park, click here or call 0871 663 1878*. Alternatively, visit the Park End Box Office, Everton Two in Liverpool One or TicketQuarter in Queen Square.
Damion Roberts is a sports sub-editor for Comet 24.