Stevenage threw away a golden opportunity to cement their play-off position in League One with another costly home defeat.

This one, 3-2 against Bristol Rovers, was particularly hard to take after they surrendered a 2-0 lead.

Goals from Kane Hemmings and Jake Forster-Caskey inside the first 25 minutes had been partly pegged back Luke Thomas but Boro were good value for the lead at the break.

However, efforts from Chris Martin and Antony Evans midway through the second period handed Rovers the victory.

There were four changes from the 2-2 draw at Port Vale.

Luther James-Wildin, Nathan Thompson, Nesta Guinness-Walker and Vadaine Oliver were the quartet to come out with Dan Butler, Dan Sweeney, Jordan Roberts and Hemmings replacing them.

If there had been a criticism of that performance at Vale Park, it was that they never put the home side away when they had the chance.

Had those misses by Reid and Finley Burns been converted then the penalty shout is either irrelevant or it doesn't happen.

The first 25 minutes of this one was the antidote to that feeling, with Boro threatening to run away with it.

They had two by that point, and could and perhaps should had more.

The first came on six minutes from a Butler throw that was flicked on inside the penalty area to Reid who was surrounded by two defenders.

None of them made any significant intervention but the ball landed seven yards out and in a central position.

Hemmings reacted quickest to clip the ball over the keeper.

Reid then passed when he perhaps should have shot and then was inches away from poking a knock down beyond Jed Ward.

His best chance though followed an excellent advantage played by the referee.

He wriggled inside but his shot was blocked by the head of a defender.

A shot from Hemmings brought shouts for handball but they were soon forgotten as Boro doubled their lead.

A free-kick was played into the box and although Rovers met it, the ball ran to the left and Forster-Caskey squirmed a shot inside the near post.

That forced Matt Taylor's hand and the Rovers boss had prepared two subs before deciding on the one change.

That change hadn't had a chance to take effect when Rovers halved the deficit,  Thomas coming inside and passing the ball almost across Craig MacGillivray and into the far corner.

Boro were perhaps guilty of not being switched on fully for the goal but after a few moments they seemed to gather themselves and finished the half strongly.

Reid tried to flick a Terence Vancooten cross in but it was blocked and a Forster-Caskey drive pinged off a few bodies before landing at the feet of Hemmings.

He was offside though.

There was nothing major that needed addressed at the break, just reminders of what Stevenage needed to do.

There was a feeling that Rovers may make tactical switches, something Stevenage had to be aware of.

And it looked like it would be more of the same when Boro forced Ward into two saves in a minute.

The first was one of those chances that should have been taken, Reid getting in behind but hitting it too close to the keeper and at a good height to be pushed away.

The next one was a drive form just outside the area by Freeman that was above him but still needed helped over the top.

But there more than enough signs that the visitors were stirring and after Hemmings had hit another one one way too close to the keeper, the Gas exploded into life.

First a run by Scott Sinclair down the left of the box was clipped into the middle for Martin to turn in from a few yards.

Six minutes later, and after a long period of treatment, Evans curled an effort into top corner for 3-2.

That was hugely avoidable with very disappointing defending, to put it very kindly.

The truth was the whole capitulation had been avoidable with far too many intricate passes when the simple option was readily available.

They were give hope when there was eight minutes added at the end and then Rovers were reduced to 10, Kamil Conteh getting a second yellow.

Freeman flashed a shot wide and then a header landed on the roof of the net.

The damage though had been done.

Match details

Stevenage: MacGillivray, Butler, Piergianni, Sweeney, Forster-Caskey (Guinness-Walker 74), Freeman, Roberts (B.Thompson 74), Vancooten, Burns (L.Thompson 89), Reid, Hemmings (Oliver 74).

Sub (not used): Ashby-Hammond, Wildin, MacDonald.

Goals: Hemmings 6. Forster-Caskey 24



Bristol Rovers: Ward, Gordon, Wilson, Thomas (Vaughan 89), Martin, Brown (Marquis 90+7), Evans, Conteh, Crama, Baggott (Sinclair 28, Grant 90+7), Hunt.

Subs (not used): Cox, Connolly, Grant, Marquis, Hoole.

Goals: Thomas 29, Martin 61, Evans 67

Booked: Evans 21, bench 83, Conteh 86, 90+5

Sent-off: Conteh 90+5


HT: Stevenage 2 Bristol Rovers 1

Added time: 11

Referee: Sunny Gill (Bracknell)

Attendance: 3,231 (including 376 from Bristol Rovers)