D3D4 Scunthorpe United Correspondent Bradley Mell looks at how the Iron have done in the opening quarter of the season…
Scunthorpe United ¼ Season Review:
With just over ¼ of the season gone and Scunthorpe United sitting 8th in the table, from the outside, it probably appears as though this has been a solid/respectable start from the Iron. To some extent this is true. Only two places outside of the Play Offs, and on equal points with Blackburn who occupy the final spot, is far from a terrible place to be this side of Christmas. However, when the manner of performances and the way that some games have been approached is considered the start to the season becomes incredibly frustrating. To fully understand this the expectations of Scunthorpe fans needs to be addressed. With a ground that holds just over 9000 and an average home attendance of around 3200, on paper this is hardly a club that people would describe as Championship material. Between 2007 and 2011 the Iron had three seasons in the Championship, predominantly under Nigel Adkins, and as such there is a desire to return to the second tier. But these aren’t ambitions created from a misplaced nostalgia. Ever since Peter Swann took over as Chairman, Championship football has been his main target and as such he fuels expectations. This is furthered by the fact that we, apparently, had a top 6 budget last season and were top of the league for so long but ultimately lost out to Millwall in the first leg of the Play Offs. Having come so close last season, and with new additions, promotion is not beyond the reach of this squad. Which is what makes the start to the season all the more frustrating.
The season began with two 1-1 draws. First at home to a good Wimbledon side and the second coming away at Rochdale. The first league win followed with a 1-0 victory over Oxford and the month was rounded off with a 0-4 victory away from home against a Plymouth side that were down to 10 men. A good start to the first month then, with 7 goals scored and a respectable 8 points from 12. The fact that only 2 goals had been conceded in four games also removed worry from a lot of fans about how the Iron would do without goalkeeper, and previous player of the season candidate, Luke Daniels who left for Brentford in the summer. Matt Gilks here proving a more than worthy replacement in net.
A 0-1 away at Bury started the month, and though a goal was disallowed for no real reason, Scunthorpe really should have been more comfortable against a side who, at the time, were very unconvincing. A 0-0 draw with Blackpool came next with, what would become a real theme of the season up to now, the strikers missing multiple opportunities. The first defeat of the season came at home to an impressive Blackburn side who took 3 points away with a 0-1 victory. Despite the result this was an encouraging performance and I felt we were unlucky not to get a point. At this stage, having only conceded 3 goals, Scunthorpe had the best defensive record in the football league. A remarkable achievement and yet this felt like a slight hindrance. A 0-1 win over local rivals Doncaster and a 2-0 win over an extremely poor Portsmouth side both featured performances that were defensively driven. The Iron seemed more concerned about not conceding rather than attacking the game. The Doncaster goal come from a rare opportunity in that game for the Iron and the Portsmouth match could potentially have seen 4 or 5 scored if Scunthorpe hadn’t sat back in the second half. A 0-0 draw at Gillingham marked the start of a poor run of form. A 2-0 defeat from league leaders Shrewsbury rounded off the month.
The first game of October saw Wigan come to Glanford Park and leave with a 1-2 victory. I, like many others, have Wigan to go up automatically and they proved exactly why here. Wigan controlled the game more or less from start to finish in a game that featured one of the worst Scunthorpe performances I have seen for quite some time. The performance was not much improved for the trip to Rotherham where the Iron were defeated 2-0. It was now 2 points from 15 and for some fans it was time for manager Alexander to go. A little harsh perhaps but what must be considered is the manner of defeats, the strikers misfiring and the dull/defensive football that was (is) being offered. To some this is a problem that goes back beyond this season with the idea that the team have never really recovered from when they dropped off the top spot last Christmas. It looked to be going much the same way for the most recent game against Peterborough but for an attacking flurry in the last 10 minutes which saw the Iron get a lucky 2-1 victory.
8th is a decent place to be, but this squad could do a whole lot better. The addition of Lee Novak over the summer coupled with new signing Simon Church will hopefully fix the problem with goals, as Scunthorpe only average one a game and take on average 12 shots for every goal. Obviously the defence isn’t as strong as it was for the first 6 weeks however, there are no real concerns there. The problems come mainly from the style of play. Adopting a more attacking approach is a must for Graham Alexander. After all, I’m pretty sure most fans would prefer to see a 4-3 than a 1-0.