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A Cornishman who made more than 50 appearances for Town across two separate spells on loan from Southampton, Stephens finished the 2013/14 season at SN1 and impressed enough to be brought back for the full 2014/15 season.
Stephens made his debut for Town in a 0-0 draw at Ashton Gate, impressing alongside Troy Archibald-Henville against a strong Bristol City side who were (true to form) underachieving in the league. Stephens’ ten appearances in that first season included four clean sheets and only eight goals conceded in ten games, impressive parsimony from a Town side who had conceded closer to 1.5 goals per game across the first part of the season.
Before too long Stephens was back on loan for his second season alongside Saints teammate Jordan Turnbull, with both becoming key parts of Town’s three man defensive setup, usually alongside Town skipper Nathan Thompson. Exceedingly comfortable on the ball for a lower league defender, Stephens was also moved forwards into midfield on occasions during the season, particularly when Yaser Kasim and Massimo Luongo were at the Asian Cup. He scored his only Town goal against Chesterfield in January, applying a glancing header to Harry Toffolo’s free kick.
Towards the end of the season, Town’s defence started to show signs of being more porous than it had been through the first three quarters of the season. After 36 games, Town had conceded only 38 goals, but the long season seemed to get to the young defenders a little as their level dropped, conceding three goals three times - against MK Dons, Walsall and Preston - over the last ten games of the normal season. The warning signs were certainly there, especially with Nathan Thompson carrying an injury, but it was still a shock when Town conceded (and scored) five in the playoff second leg against Sheffield United before conceding (this time unanswered) four more against Preston in the final.
Stephens returned to Southampton at the end of the season, and the next season was loaned to Championship side Middlesbrough. He went on to become an established part of Southampton’s squad in the Premier League, and picking up eight England U21 caps after departing Town.
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