SHEFFIELD United had not conceded a goal in over 10 hours of football before this afternoon... then along came Lopez.
United ended up dancing to Lopez’ goal tune and there was early warning for them as Stevenage, now adopting a more sophisticated approach rather than the confrontation methods which lifted them out of the Conference, made the early running with Lopez seeing a third minute shot deflected wide following a darting run.
United suffered an early blow when Murphy walked gingerly off the pitch in the ninth minute.
McFadzean, rather than Forte or Poleon, was given the nod to come on following discussions among the visitors’ coaching staff.
United, hoping to register a first ever win at the Lamex Stadium, arrived ranked second in the table, unbeaten in seven and having kept six consecutive clean sheets.
That record of defensive success was certainly being put to the test.
Haber should have scored in the 39th minute but slipped as he received Akins’ pass six yards from goal.
But 60 seconds later LOPEZ became the first player to breach United’s defence in over 10 hours of football when he turned on a sixpence and drove home from Comminges’ pass.
Lopez nearly doubled Stevenage’s lead straight from the re-start but Long expertly tipped his looping effort over the bar. In the 49th minute LOPEZ claimed his and Stevenage’s second after escaping his markers from Mahon’s chip over-the-top. Dunne had also contributed to the move.
LOPEZ could have completed his hat-trick in the 57th minute but snatched at his shot. No matter as the Spaniard did exactly that in the 64th with an audacious, long-range and angled finish which left Long grasping at thin air and some United fans heading for the exit.
It was Lopez’ second hat-trick in the space of a week having also scored three during the final game of his loan spell at Barnet against Morecambe. AKINS piled on the agony with a low drive.