Steve Evans hails Stevenage’s ‘real heroes’ after clinching promotion
Stevenage manager Steve Evans labelled his players “heroes” after they sealed promotion to Sky Bet League One with one game of the season to spare after a 2-0 win over Grimsby.
Three years ago, only the demise of Macclesfield reprieved the club from relegation from the EFL, and they were again struggling against the drop when Evans took charge 13 months ago.
The 60-year-old has now guided them to a return to the third tier of English football after a nine-year absence and added another promotion to his managerial career, thanks to second-half goals from Jamie Reid and Luther James-Wildin.
Evans said: “It’s a magical day for everyone in the town, everyone at the football club, our chairman [Phil Wallace], his wife Margaret and all the board. They’ve been fantastic.
“The players are the real heroes – we’ve said before, the general sends his troops into battle and the general then stays in the big war building and looks at a screen.
“The real heroes are the boys who have to go out on the pitch and do it in football terms, and they’ve been fantastic all season.
“They’ve been acclaimed, then they were written off, although we never wrote them off, we said if we stick to the plan and stick to the way we do things, they’ll come good.
“I’m delighted for them today, every one of them.”
After having a Reid header ruled out for offside in the second minute, Stevenage produced a nervy performance in the first half and looked set to be made to sweat going into the final day of the season.
The mood was lifted spectacularly, however, when Reid put the hosts ahead after 57 minutes when he headed Jordan Roberts’ cross into the bottom corner.
After Danny Rose had a shot cleared off the line by Grimsby captain Luke Waterfall, James-Wildin made sure of promotion by stroking in his first goal for two years from the edge of the area.
Grimsby boss Paul Hurst said: “It’s Stevenage’s afternoon, there’s no doubt about that.
“Congratulations to them, it’s not just today, it’s over the course of a season, but I thought they showed parts of why they’ve been promoted in that performance today.
“Getting on to ourselves, I thought first half we more than held our own and were probably the better team in general.
“Second half we weren’t good enough, realistically, and once we went 1-0 down, I wasn’t happy with how we performed and tried to go about our jobs.
“It obviously gave them a lift and the carrot for them to go and chase and harry everything, and that’s what they’re very good at, but I can’t remember our players having time on the ball, whereas unfortunately theirs did at times.”