THREE years on from the miracle at Rodney Parade, League Two basement boys Stevenage are following the Newport County AFC ‘Great Escape’ model to a tee as they attempt to avoid an apparently inevitable return to non-league football.

Boro have parted company with Graham Westley with 12 games left to play and relegation seemingly nailed on, appointing a 36-year-old former player as their fourth manager of the season and bringing in a former Cardiff City boss as a mentor figure.

The parallels with Westley’s departure from Newport in March 2017 are eery.

The Hertfordshire club, who have former County man Alex Tunbridge as CEO, have just 22 points from 34 games.

They’re seven points from safety with 12 games remaining, having played a game more than their rivals.

The Exiles had 26 points from 34 games when Westley was sacked, leaving them 11 points from safety with a game in hand and 12 matches to save themselves.

They turned to rookie manager Michael Flynn, who brought in veteran Lennie Lawrence to work alongside him in the dugout, and the rest is history.

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Stevenage have handed the reins to first-time boss Alex Revell and he will call upon the experience of Russell Slade, who was in charge at National League North side Hereford until last month.

Speaking about the change, Boro chairman Phil Wallace said: "We are uncomfortable making yet another change as Graham has worked tirelessly for the club since the day he arrived, setting up procedures and bringing some good quality new faces in, but with six straight defeats and one win in 13 league games, we are running out of time and we have to try something new.

“Alex knows the squad, knows the players strengths and weaknesses and we are hoping his energy, dedication and enthusiasm will rub off on the lads and bring us the wins we need to survive.”

On the appointment of Slade, Revell said: “I have always respected Russ and it will be a great boost to be able to use his experience around the training ground and on matchdays.”

With only one relegation spot this season and the possibility of Macclesfield facing further points deductions, this last throw of the dice might just work for Stevenage.

But I wouldn’t put any money on it. The sort of remarkable revival that Flynn, Lawrence and Wayne Hatswell instigated at Rodney Parade doesn’t happen every year – more like once in a generation.

When you consider the job that Flynn has done over the past three years, the position that the club was in when he was appointed and where they are now, it’s baffling to me that some fans are calling for him to be sacked.

Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Mansfield Town was pretty grim in all respects, while the poor run of form in the league since October – just 14 points out of 54 available – is undoubtedly worrying.

And the chronic lack of goals in League Two has made for difficult viewing at times this season but, despite what some doom-mongers may suggest, County are not in any danger of being dragged into a relegation battle with Stevenage.

In fact, with three games in hand on seventh-placed Colchester United, they could yet make another late charge to the play-offs. It’s possible, if highly unlikely.

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And a win tomorrow night will seal a place in the Leasing.com Trophy final and a third trip to Wembley in three years for Flynn’s men.

“This is my toughest time as a manager,” said the Exiles boss before the win at Scunthorpe United last month.

“I don’t think we’ve been on a run this bad before.

“We’ve raised expectations and we’ve got one or two fans moaning, but it’s the same everywhere and it really doesn’t bother me

“You’ve got to be supportive through thick and thin.”

Flynn’s record over the past three years should ensure he has more than enough credit in the bank to keep his job and rebuild over the summer ready for another push, however this season ends.

He certainly believes so.

Speaking earlier this month about his relationship with the board of directors, the manager said: “If they want to sack me for getting to the play-off final, saving the club from relegation into non-league, getting the furthest the club’s ever been in the FA Cup, making millions for the club, improving the crowds, getting to the semi-final of the Trophy, going to Wembley twice, drawing with Spurs and beating Leicester, Leeds and Middlesbrough, then there’s nothing I can do about that.

“I think the board are very level-headed and I don’t even think it’s been discussed.”

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