Well, a 1-0 defeat to Preston North End isn’t terrible, it certainly could have been a lot worse. I don’t think anyone really expected us to win, so to come out of the game feeling that we deserved a point should be taken as a positive. But, we are at a stage in the season where we just need to rack up as many points as possible however they come about. The crucial stage of the season is nearly upon us.
This forthcoming fixture with Scunthorpe United is crucial. First and foremost, we need to end this winless run currently stretching to five league games. With teams below us starting to improve and with some difficult games ahead, simply avoiding defeat isn’t enough. Enter Mark ‘Sky Blue blood‘ Robins and his rapidly improving Scunthorpe United side featuring two Cov kids, Jordan Clarke and Gary McSheffrey, with a point to prove to Steven Pressley.
With both Frank Nouble and Andy Webster limping off with injuries against Preston, the squad has a depleted look to it, especially in defence. Renewing the loan deal of Matthew Pennington was a must, the Everton youngster will now be given a chance to play in his preferred position of centre-back which is doubly good given his recent displays at right-back. Aaron Phillips is back in training but Pressley might be tempted to be more cautious in bringing him back in after he aggravated an injury in his last appearance.
Bolton loanee Sanmi Odelusi is a doubt for this game after missing the Preston game through injury. Odelusi’s pace and purpose afforded the other attack-minded players in the squad space to express themselves against Rochdale. It seems Pressley is wary of throwing Blair Turgott in right away and if he doesn’t go for the former West Ham winger, Tudgay could be handed a start with either Luke Williams or Dominic Samuel shunted out wide.
I would like to see Conor Thomas given a starting place for this game ahead of Adam Barton or Jack Finch. In a different way to Odelusi, Thomas gives us something different to the sterile passing of our other midfield options. I suspect though that Pressley is reticent to play Fleck and Thomas together as it leaves Fleck playing a more defensively-focused game, which is why Pressley seems intent on adding a holding midfielder to the squad at some point.
Despite a much better showing from Lee Burge against Preston, it seems inevitable that Jamie Jones will be immediately restored to the first team. We have to win this game and Jones’ experience offers in theory the security that he will not balance doing one good thing with a bad thing. If Burge could establish himself in the first-team at some point this season though, it would free Pressley up to add another outfield player in the loan market.
Possible Line-Up: (4-4-2) Jones; Willis, Pennington, Martin, Haynes; Odelusi, Thomas, Fleck, O’Brien; Williams, Samuel.
Last Time We Met
Our last meeting with Scunthorpe shouldn’t have been a turning point of the season, coming in the eighth game of the season. But from the very moment that Reda Johnson moved his head towards Lyle Taylor, our season has been on a downwards trajectory. For the first 20 minutes of the game we had a Coventry City team high on confidence after back-to-back victories back at the Ricoh and were third in the table after Frank Nouble’s opening goal. Following Reda’s red card, we went on to lose to a Scunthorpe side playing without confidence and suffer two more defeats after that and had to wait another month to record our next win.
How Are They Doing?
For Scunthorpe manager Russ Wilcox that victory proved to be a dead man’s twitch rather than a new dawn for the manager who lead the Iron out of League Two with ease a few months earlier. Wilcox’s inexperience and cautious approach left a Scunthorpe side that had invested quite strongly in their team after last season’s promotion from League Two mired in a relegation battle. After sacking Wilcox in October, former Coventry City boss Mark ‘I’m here for the long haul‘ Robins took over and has lost four three games in 20.
The main man for Scunthorpe United is Paddy Madden, the former League One top scorer made a surprise move to Scunthorpe last season when they were in League Two and played a second-fiddle role to Sam Winnall as the Iron secured promotion. This season the departure of Winnall to Barnsley has made Madden a pivotal figure at Glanford Park. Madden has proven his versatility by operating out wide at times and has five assists to his name in the league alongside ten goals scored on his own.
Mark ‘I am more than happy as manager of Coventry City‘ Robins has also made some useful signings in the loan market that have added some quality to an otherwise workmanlike and physical Scunthorpe side. Leicester City loanee Tom Hopper has scored four in five appearances for Scunthorpe since arriving at the club. More impressive though has been the form of West Brom’s Liam O’Neill in Scunthorpe’s central midfield. Brought in as a holding midfielder, O’Neill has shown that he has both the physical and technical gifts to be a complete central midfielder and looks set to play in the Premier League within the next two seasons.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Gary McSheffrey and Jordan Clarke. McSheffrey has been a strong performer since joining the Iron this time last year and has more assists this season than any player in our squad. He isn’t the goal threat that we so fondly remember him for being but remains the useful and hard-working presence on the left of midfield that he was towards the end of second spell here. Jordan Clarke has been first-choice right-back at Scunthorpe since signing a few weeks ago, playing in a position he was never allowed to establish himself at this club.
Possible Line-Up: (4-5-1) Daniels; Clarke, Boyce, Canavan, Williams; Madden, Bishop, O’Neil, Osbourne, McSheffrey; Hopper.
We seem to be fairly obsessed with our ex-players at this moment in time and I think many are predicting that this will be a miserable night with Gary McSheffrey and Jordan Clarke getting the chance to stick it to a crowd and manager that doubted their abilities. This is such an important game for us and Scunthorpe will probably set up to hit us on the counter, something that Mark ‘I am absolutely delighted to have this opportunity‘ Robins made his forte during the away performances of his time at Coventry City. Scunthorpe definitely have the physically forceful defenders and pace on the counter to carry out that game plan to perfection.
If we were to lose this, it would be a toxic atmosphere that could make it nearly impossible for Pressley to lift this team out of the mire. Slightly optimistically though, I am predicting a 1-1 draw here.