Now in League Two, following a bottom placed finish in the 2013/14 League One season, Stevenage will be confident of a more successful campaign this year, as they look to return to the division they called home for the past three years.
Their exit from the third tier of English football was only the second relegation the club has suffered since their founding in 1976, with the other coming in 1987/88 in the Isthmian Division One.
Graham Westley’s side opened their latest account with three deserved points; as they recorded a 1-0 win at home against Hartlepool Town. Midfielder Chris Whelpdale grabbed the winner in the 60th minute. Unsurprisingly, Stevenage’s league results last season make for uncomfortable reading to anyone associated with the club. With only 11 wins, the club were only able to record consecutive victories once; against Crewe Alexandra and Crawley Town in October. The final blow to the club came when top scorer François Zoko left on a free following relegation.
However, Boro’s pre-season form did show promise, with the club recording four wins, four draws and a loss, scoring 17 goals in the process. A potential replacement for Zoko, Adam Marriott, signed from Cambridge City, grabbed five of the 17, including a hat-trick against Chesham United.
Marriott’s arrival was only one of many in a busy off season for the club. At the start of the campaign, Stevenage had signed 14 new players, and seen 19 leave the club during the transfer window. Alongside Zoko, the loss of Luke Freeman will affect the side, as the midfielder made 48 appearances last season in all competitions, the most in the squad, but has joined Bristol City for an undisclosed fee.
Watford are not unfamiliar opponents to Stevenage, with the two meeting last season in a friendly at Broadhill Way. The Hornets ran out 2-0 winners, with goals from Carlos Acuna and Troy Deeney.
Stevenage starting XI v Hartlepool Town on Saturday: (4-4-2) Beasant; Dembele, Wells, Worley, Ashton; Bond, Whelpdale, Pett, Lee; Charles, Marriott.