The Scunthorpe United Verdict: Hard-fought win sets up an emotional rollercoaster of a month

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WOAP pundits Damien Wilkinson, Nathan Evans, Mahesh Johal and Tom Swithinbank share their thoughts on the Scunthorpe victory, what to do about Steve Davies and Rory McArdle, and how they see the promotion run-in shaping up.

What did you make of the performance against Scunthorpe?

Damien: I think the performance certainly carried on from what we have seen throughout all the matches since the Colchester defeat; not always pretty on the eye but once which had a steely determination, togetherness and desire stamped right through it. This clearly enabled us to grind out another narrow win against a decent Scunthorpe team, and you can almost see the belief enveloping the team and the fans at the moment.

Stephen Darby has typified this resolve for me and again made some crucial defensive blocks which very much underpinned the victory.

At this stage of the season you couldn’t really ask for any more than what we have currently, and as a fan surely this is what it is all about – every City fan should be buzzing at the moment!

Nathan: The performance on Saturday was average, it didn’t excite me as much as recent games have especially in the first half where we struggled to create many chances but we battled away and got another fantastic win.

It was the sort of game that previous City sides would have struggled with of recent years; but this team has the ability to grind out a win when needed, something we’ve seen multiple times this season so far. We’ve now won 1-0 on eight occasions in the league so far this term and by a margin of one goal on twelve occasions.

Another clean sheet too. Williams and the back line have been unbelievable at times this season, 23 clean sheets for him is a momentous feat.

Mahesh: It wasn’t pretty but we out worked and overpowered Scunthorpe in the second half.  Some players looked tired from the Easter fixtures, Billy Clarke being one who comes to mind. But as Damien rightly says, we have a knack of grinding teams down and Saturday was no different.

We may not have been at our fluent best, but credit to the team for continuing to battle for a deserved three points.

Tom: A scrappy affair and not our best performance, but a great win and you could see what it meant to fans and players alike. 

Last year we would have thrown it away and doing so would have seemed almost inevitable to those watching! 

A friend was complimentary about how we saw the game out and I was explaining how last year teams would waste time throughout only to speed up during the last 10 when they sensed they could sneak the win! 

As Jason said in his match report, we are a more streetwise side but – as touched upon by the others – we now have the fire power on the bench to change a game. Having Thomas, Marshall, Anderson, McArdle, Leigh and Routis not even making the bench is an impressive squad! 

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Do you think Steve Davies deserves to start against Swindon?

Nathan: Does he deserve it? Certainly. But why not keep it as is? All players want to start football matches, but Steve Davies is making a habit of coming off the bench to score.

Just imagine being an opposition defender for a minute, you face Jaime Proctor for 60 minutes, who closes down and chases down every ball he can to then glance at the touchline, and see Davies and Hanson waiting to come on as substitutes. It must be deflating to say the least for the opposition so why change it if it’s working?

The case of Steve Davies best highlights our great squad depth this year, something that will be very important come the play offs if we stay in the top six.

Tom: I haven’t been impressed with his general play, but his goal scoring record is certainly hard to ignore. Billy Clarke pulls the defenders all over the place and creates space for others but he does need a goal. I think Proctor cemented his place in this side with his work rate and his goals last weekend. 

Mahesh: Yes, I think he deserves a run in the side purely based on the amount of goals he has scored recently. Whether Parkinson gives him a start however is a different question.

The Proctor/Clarke axis is working well, and is a major reason for the up lift in results over the last month. Part of me thinks we keep it as is for the time being, but Davies must surely be close if Parkinson does change it up.

Damien: That’s a very tricky one indeed!  The tactics of deploying the Hanson/Davies twin wrecking ball on 60 minutes has certainly reaped some reward so far, and I believe there may well be some merit in keeping Davies on the leash at little longer.

With the usual possible pitfalls of playing a team low on confidence, Swindon probably won’t be the walkover some expect and it may well be worth keeping something up our sleeve should we need to change things.

However, I did think Billy Clarke was a little off the pace in the Scunthorpe match, and inclusion of Davies (and indeed Hanson) will come under more scrutiny over the coming games; perhaps some rotation such that they are more tailored to capitalise on the opposition, and kept fresher might be an option.

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk) - copyright Bradford City

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk) – copyright Bradford City

Would you put Rory McArdle back in the team?

Nathan: A difficult question is this one. Rory McArdle is our rock at the back, but Burke and Clarke have held down the fort very, very well in his absence. Nathan Clarke in particular has really improved since the start of the season and would win the award for most improved player if I was choosing.

Consisting is key in football especially amongst defences so for me right now, I’d keep the back two as Burke and Clarke despite how well McArdle has played this term.

Damien: At this point, no (and I would have been surprised to be writing that a few months ago!)  I wouldn’t want to risk changing the centre back pairings again and also it would seem an unnecessary risk for the player too, if as reported he will have further surgery on his shoulder in the summer. 

Nathan Clarke has clearly grabbed the bull by the horns with regards to the opportunity presented and he is very much a pivotal part of the City side presently.

Mahesh: This is a similar situation to Davies. The team have done tremendously well without him and I think you continue with the “winning team”. However, Parkinson has dropped Nathan Clarke before in favour of of the McArdle and Burke pairing, so it would not surprise me.

To think we’re coping/ excelling without him and Andrew Davies. It shows how well the side,and in particular the defence are doing. Massive credit to them and the coaching staff.

Like the Steve Davies situation, it’s a very nice conundrum to have!

Tom: No I think Burke will keep his place as he has done all season and Clarke is one of our best players at the moment. His last ditch tackle against Millwall won us the game and he was immense again on Saturday.

I was at York back in early August and he was so off the pace, he got an absolute run around by their young striker (Reece Thompson). Nathan Clarke has come a long way since then – a great turn around. 

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk) - copyright Bradford City

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk) – copyright Bradford City

How do see the final six games shaping up for City?

Damien: “Careful now” has got to be the watchword as we hopefully keep the steady momentum of late going.

There will no doubt be further twists and turns as the season draws to a conclusion, and how we navigate our way through them will be critical.  The fact that we now have strength in depth across the squad can only be a good thing, but Phil Parkinson will have to ensure that he makes the optimal use of those available whilst keeping the hunger of those not involved yet.

It was great to see Filipe Morais return to playing action on Saturday, and with hopefully Paul Anderson following soon, this could well add that extra ingredient needed if we are chasing a result.

Following the Swindon fixture, the run of two consecutive away matches (Shrewsbury and Coventry) now look of massive importance, and it will be critical to try and get some return from either of these, before Walsall visit a hopefully rocking Valley Parade on 23rd April.

By which time you would imagine the promotion picture will look a lot clearer, and we can hopefully force ourselves over the line in the remaining two fixtures!

Mahesh: I see it being a tense and rocky affair. Like Saturday, it’s not going to be pretty. But you’ve got to back the Bantams to make the top six, right?

As Damien’s mentioned, we’ve got players coming back from injury. And, as demonstrated by this thread, there is competition in all positions.

Some players are on top of their games at preset, others are starting to show their full potential and worth. This point is definitely the case with someone like Lee Evans. He has undoubted quality but at times I think he’s got unwarranted praise. However on Saturday he was terrific. In tight and scrappy affairs we need players to stand up drag us to victory. Evans did that with his unique swagger brilliantly against Scunthorpe.

Nathan: Four wins, one draw and one loss. That’s the best, most realistic set of results I can envisage. We’re going well at the moment and with a full strength squad back anything is possible, but we do have some difficult matches coming up, Coventry and Walsall in particular although any game can be a difficult one in League One.

Saturday’s win was pivotal with Barnsley not playing in the league this weekend. To move five points clear, regardless of the Tykes’ game in hand, is absolutely huge. We’ve put huge pressure on the teams around us in recent weeks with our fantastic form and seem to have pounced just at the right time this season.

Tom: I agree with Nathan – that run of results seems achievable but anything can happen in football! As stated earlier – one game at a time is key for all involved! It will be interesting to see what role Morais and Anderson play and if anyone else steps up during the run in (Poor Josh Morris has had an awful season!)

Reid looked tired on Saturday so maybe that left hand side will become up for grabs! (it always seems to me that he is left on 10 minutes too long but what do I know!) In Parky We Trust, and let’s see where it takes us! 

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Categories: The Verdict

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2 replies

  1. I suspect Clarke (B) will keep his place. When the subs are made Davies is replacing Proctor as the spearhead and Hanson is asked to play deeper, charging about harassing anyone that’s anywhere near him. If Davies replaces Clarke it means that City will probably go for a more traditional looking 4-4-2 and risk Evans/ Cullen being over-run in midfield. I bet Swindon will be packing their midfield after their recent wallopings so likely to go for Clarke.

  2. Interesting times indeed. I don’t see PP making any changes to the starting lineup from the last few games ( if it ain’t broke don’t fix it). Davies and Hanson coming on as substitutes must bring a sense of dismay to opposition players and supporters alike. Having been run ragged, by Proctor in particular, the body language of the Scunthorpe defenders said it all and duly obliged by immediately conceding a goal.

    Our defence is doing a sterling job. Much has been said about N Clarke’s turn around in form. However, something that hasn’t drawn much attention is his organisational ability, barking out instructions and encouragement to those around him. Reece Burke is benefiting from this in particular. Poor Rory McCardle. It may be risky putting him back into the action and I can imagine that PP might be tempted to ‘nurse’ him through to the end of the season and try to avoid further damage to his shoulder, this being subject to Burke and Clarke staying injury free.

    Chesterfield achieved sixth place last season with 69 points. I feel the requirement this season will be much greater.

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