So that is that, no League One play-offs for Stevenage in 2023-2024.

Defeat to Burton Albion on Saturday made it all but certain that Boro were not going to make the end of season party, something that had seemed hugely unlikely as little as the beginning of March.

But while there are still two games remaining to fully conclude the season, the debrief has begun among supporters and there is mixed feelings out there.

So, because you all know me now, I'll stick my two penn'orth in and to do so I'm going to reference two television programmes and a little bit of science.

I'd never heard of Schrodinger's cat before I watched the Big Bang Theory.

They were using it as part of the storyline between Leonard and Penny but it's real purpose was to describe a part of quantum physics - that tiny particles can be in two states at once until they're observed.

It uses a theoretical experiment whereby you put a cat in a box with a mechanism that might kill it.

Until you look inside, the cat is both alive and dead at the same time.

And that lads and lasses is Stevenage's season in a nutshell.

It has been a good season, there's no getting away from that. To finish no lower than 10th, and probably ninth, in their first season back at the level, that's good going.

They are the highest of the four promoted sides too so in any language, a big tick can be placed next to the campaign.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that when you only need five or six wins from the final 12 games to reach the post-season, and don't manage it, then that is hugely frustrating, hugely disappointing and ultimately, a failure.

Schrodinger's football - the ability to feel delighted and angry about the season at the same time.

The second TV programme helps to understand the mechanics of some of the feelings, and that is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

That famously said the answer to life, the universe and everything was 42, which is all well and good but can only be interpreted if you know the actual question.

Likewise, if you are going to rate the season for Stevenage, then you need to know how you're going to do it. Where do you start the measure?

If you take the starting point from March 2022, when Steve Evans took over, then unquestionably this season has been a success. Nobody envisioned the progress, perhaps not even the boss himself.

He might have thought it possible but thought and reality don't often share the same bed.

If you take the calculation from May of last year, after promotion had been secured, then it is still a successful year.

The other starting point though is at the start of December, and I choose that date deliberately.

On December 9, Boro won 2-1 at Burton in a scrappy game, came from behind. A good result but not a fluid performance.

That was their 21st game of the season and although they had played more than the others, two more than leaders Portsmouth, they were just three points behind in third.

That was the point the point I changed the yardstick, the point I decided that all this talk of the play-offs, while valid, was actually aiming too low.

Fast forward to that point after victory over Cambridge United at the end of February and there was a two point gap over the chasing pack and a game in Boro's favour.

Six wins from those final 12 matches was perfectly achievable, especially looking at the fixture list to come, and that's why I am more disappointed than happy with the outcome of the year.

But, the point is it is perfectly acceptable to be in both camps or one or the other.


Steve Evans alluded to it in a throwaway comment said towards the end of his post-match interview on Saturday, "the benchmark has been set".

Next season anything other than a top half finish will be seen as a disappointment. It'll only take a minor overhaul to give Boro the tools to have a real tilt at automatic promotion.

That is something I'm aiming to speak to the boss about, probably this week, before Oxford.

I also think it is the perfect opportunity to step out from the shadow of the 'little Stevenage' tag.

I got the impression, rightly or wrongly, that some were almost settling this season, happy in the knowledge they were even competing at the top end of League One.

I get that, I am after all a football fan first and foremost, I helped push the Tottenham bandwagon through the 90s.

But I would honestly be aiming for the title next year and automatic promotion. It doesn't mean that you have to win it but it's the old adage of 'if you aim for the stars, you might land on the moon'.

There'll be more on that in the weeks and months as I go through my thoughts on who should stay, who may go and who I would have a look at for the season ahead.

It has been fun this season, as it was last, but a more favourable outcome would be nicer next time around.