Preview: Scunthorpe United

With the madness of the transfer window in full swing at the moment, those memories of Jordan Willis, Jordan Shipley and Jack Grimmer each scoring worldies at a delirious Wembley back in May are starting to seem like distant ones. In those glorious few days before and after promotion, this club seemed to be blazing a trail towards destiny, the past month has been a reminder that supporting Coventry City in League One is quite a lot like supporting Coventry City in League Two, minus that level of fear of dropping into the abyss of non-league.

An underwhelming pre-season has tempered the optimism to a degree, but a new season always brings new possibilities and now is the time to get all giddy about what could be in store. We may be minus a goalscoring striker in Marc McNulty, but in Tom Bayliss we have a young talent who could be set to take the division by storm, plus a fully-fit Tony Andreu and a soon-to-be-fit Jodi bloody Jones.

Bayliss and Andreu’s link-up play is set to be a key feature of the opening few weeks of the season, with the second-half of last week’s pre-season friendly against West Brom a promising sign of what we could be in store for. There could be an issue in the decision-making in the final third, where Marc McNulty’s decisiveness will be missed, but Bayliss, Andreu, and the pace that this team looks to have in abundance is an exciting prospect.

A 4-2-3-1 looks to be the system that gets the best out of Tom Bayliss and Tony Andreu, either with Bayliss playing in central midfield with Andreu ahead of him or Bayliss floating around from a wide position. Fitness concerns with Abu Ogogo and Liam Kelly could see Bayliss played in his natural central midfield position, while there looks to be an open slot in the side on the right wing which either Dujon Sterling or Jordy Hiwula can fill with Reise Allassani cutting in from the left flank.

Possible Line-Up

Defence is potentially the weak spot of the side, especially if we are to expect Michael Doyle’s influence as a midfield screen to wane over the course of the season. With attack-minded full-backs and central defenders who possibly lack composure and authority, we could potentially be very exposed at the back.

In terms of this game, the sale of Rod McDonald and suspension of Tom Davies means that Mark Robins can almost only pair Jordan Willis and Dominic Hyam together – unless youngster Jordon Thompson is thrown in for a surprise debut. Junior Brown’s seniority is likely to see him get the nod over the energetic Brandon Mason at left-back, while the possibility of Dujon Sterling starting in an advanced position is likely to keep Jack Grimmer in the side at right-back.

Last Time We Met

There’s something poetic about starting life back in League One against the opponents we played in our last game before relegation. Mark Robins named a makeshift side for that trip to Glanford Park in May 2017, involving a debut for Chris Camwell at left-back and a start for Vladimir Gadzhev in midfield, even Wembley selfie-stick merchant Michael Folivi got a run out.

It was Gadzhev, with a heavily deflected effort, which gave the Sky Blues the lead at half-time, only for our Play-Off bound opponents to rattle in three goals after the break to earn them a third-placed finish, before losing in the Play-Off Semi-Final to the eventual winners, Millwall.

How Are They Doing?

Scunthorpe were once again in the League One Play-Offs last year, only to again fall at the first hurdle to the eventual winners. However, the Iron head into the new season with little optimism that they can make it a third Play-Off trip in as many seasons following a significant cut-back in spending.

Key players such as Murray Wallace and Conor Townsend in defence, midfield presence Ryan Yates, winger Hakeeb Adelakun and striker Ivan Toney have all either been sold or haven’t returned after successful loan stints. Wide-men Josh Morris and Duane Holmes, along with deep-lying playmaker Funso Ojo are the star performers that remain in place, but are all facing varying degrees of fitness issues, likely to leave Scunthorpe manager Nick Daws – heading into his first full season as a manager – with an especially threadbare squad for this game.

Scunthorpe are further affected by injuries to Matt Gilks in goal, Rory McArdle in defence and target-man Lee Novak, potentially robbing them of nearly the entire spine of last year’s side. With transfer business tending to be of the young and raw variety, Scunthorpe look slightly undercooked heading into the season opener.

Possible Line-Up

Ex-Sky Blue right-back Jordan Clarke and ball-playing centre-back Cameron Burgess are likely to be key presences for Scunthorpe United in defence for this game. The vastly experienced James Perch, if fully fit after signing as a free agent just this week, is likely to be leaned on as well to help a youthful side through this opening day encounter for the Iron.

Forwards Stephen Humphrys and Olufela Olomola are the key attacking threats for Scunthorpe heading into this match – presuming neither Duane Holmes nor Josh Morris are available. Humphrys is a physical, yet technically proficient, forward who will lead the line for the Iron. Olufela Olomola is a pacey and skilful striker who enjoyed a productive loan spell last year with Yeovil but can be somewhat enigmatic.

Prediction

This game looks an excellent opportunity to kick-off our campaign back in League One with all three points. Against a Scunthorpe United side potentially missing as many as six first-team players, our opponents are clearly not in the best of shapes heading into this game. Victory is no foregone conclusion, especially if Scunthorpe are able to rush some of their key players to match fitness, but getting three points here would set the tone for the season wonderfully.

With Tom Bayliss and Tony Andreu getting onto the ball and looking to make things happen, there is the potential for this to be a comfortable and enthralling victory for us. I worry that we may lack a level of decisiveness in the final third, but I expect us to come out with a win here, 2-1.

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