Fan’s View – no.21 – Scunthorpe away

Article by Paul Beasley

SCUNTHORPE AWAY

Our opponents and their form

Scunthorpe had for some time been planning to move away from Glandford Park, a ground they only moved to in 1988, to one very close by, just the other side of the A18. That aim was ditched a year ago when chairman Peter Swann, who owns 87.5% of SUFC said he would be taking legal action against the council and KMG (the consultants, I assume) for breach of contract. I don’t know how that is playing out or the actual involvement of all parties mentioned but it does remind us that the saga of football clubs attempting to move home, whether successful or not, and local authorities is one that takes place all over the country, not just in Oxfordshire.

Instead they plan to re-develop their existing abode and In May this year revealed how a re-vamped Glandford Park could look. The intention being to replace one stand at a time and ultimately increase the capacity from 9,000 by a couple of thousand. With the gates they get I would hardly have thought that the extra space is needed. Plans have now been submitted including for residential apartments on the site.

But it is obviously what’s happening on the field that more concerns visiting supporters like ourselves. They’d lost their last five league games. Before that though they were unbeaten in seven. I’ve looked on them over many years now as a free scoring side and that is currently pretty much so. Despite them slipping down the table they were the joint 8th highest scorers in the division. We were joint 19th.  It’s at the other end they’ve been having major problems. No other L1 team has let in more goals. Their goal difference was four worse than ours.

Whilst these stats could trigger a Yellow to think the day could be ours, people of the Iron persuasion will be looking at the big fat zero in the OUFC away wins column.

Other goings on

Last game we were without a Head of Sports Science. Now we’ve got one again. It’s Chris Short who seems to have been here, there & everywhere and done lots of different thats. I’m guessing people like him don’t come cheap but that has to show that perhaps, just perhaps, the club does have some ambition after all. Or is it just a case of keeping up with the Joneses?

Scunthorpe United 3 Oxford United 3

This was a funny old game to assess and something very different to consider than what we’ve been used to over recent weeks.

In scoring three away league goals we almost doubled our tally for the season and achieved a feat we’d not managed since 3rd February at the Valley.

To concede three in a game, let alone during a six minute spell, is a bit of a head scratcher after we’d let in just one goal – and that from the penalty spot – in the previous five games. Perhaps that wasn’t quite such a puzzle though when I think about my reference to Scunny both scoring and leaking plenty.

A point is a point whether a team ends up with it after surrendering a lead or fighting back after being in arrears. Obviously being three up and not taking maximum points is a massive disappointment but even when we had that lead I wasn’t totally convinced we’d triumph. I’d put six quid of a left over drinking kitty on Oxford at 13/8 and when the third went in my mate turned round and said “our bet’s safe”. My response was, “not sure” and that wasn’t as it turned out just the inbuilt pessimism of the supporter of a football team that is yet to win on its travels in L1 this season. I don’t go along with much of this bogey team stuff but we’ve still not won in this town since before Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy at the old Wembley Stadium.

I have to give Scunthorpe great credit because their heads never dropped when our goals went in and that must have taken some doing with the terrible run of form they’re on.

A goal not long after a game has commenced, provided it’s for and not against, should not be sniffed at, but when this happens the pessimistic me is thinking “too early”. Which is bloody ridiculous really.

Our opener was well worked. Tony McMahon, a quietly effective presence as we’ve improved, was half tackled a fair way into the Scunthorpe half. The ball broke lose to Cameron Brannagan who immediately moved it on to James Henry. He turned towards goal, gave the ball to Jamie Mackie, got it back again and thumped a right footer past keeper Jak Alnwick.

For the rest of the first half I didn’t think we looked under any real threat but nor would I say we were totally dominant and had the game fully under control. We did play a bit of half decent football though.

By the time just ten minutes of the second period had ticked by we had trebled our lead. The first of these was another properly constructed, the second a scrappy affair.

It has not escaped my notice that it was the same players involved in putting us 2-0 up as was the case when we originally took the lead. McMahon to Mackie, then a clipped pass down the wing to Henry who took the ball on his chest before proving himself too strong for Cameron Burgess as he held off the Scunthorpe defender. The ball was then slipped back just outside the six yard box to be converted by Brannagan who had got just ahead of his marker.

Our final goal resulted from a corner. The clearance of sorts was well controlled by McMahon to prevent it finding touch. His crosses are more dangerous than we’ve seen from Oxford players for some time and a bit of pinball ensued before our ex-captain stabbed home.

No one on the planet could have envisaged that a mere eleven minutes later it would be level pegging.

All three of the home side’s goals came from set pieces and there is a big clue here why we let a massive lead slip through our fingers in double quick time.

We gave away too many unnecessary free-kicks in areas where there was a real risk to the back of our net. I don’t know if this was down to a lack of discipline or what, but I wouldn’t have said we looked like being overrun at the time and needed to defend desperately. Neither can I recall who the culprits were. My mate Tim B, our driver for the day as is often the case, placed much blame on Brannagan but it has to be said he’s not a big fan.

1-3. A free-kick five yards or so from the bye-line was pulled back to the completely unmarked Jordan Clarke on the edge of the box. He fired low and hard through a sea of legs. We deserved to lose a goal being so easily tricked into thinking a cross was coming over. Hadn’t anyone in a yellow shirt wondered why Clarke was standing where he was?

2-3. This free-kick was in one of those places where a player who has good technique has a strong chance of registering. I, not knowing whether Scunthorpe had such a player, said to my mate it’s going in that top corner, pointing to exactly where a second or so later Leicester loanee George Thomas put the ball for his first Scunthorpe league goal.

3-3. Number three came from a corner not a free-kick. An attacker won the initial header beyond the far post but the goal bound effort was nodded out only for it to be returned low and hard.

I don’t blame Simon Eastwood for any of these but I’d wager that if our borrowed keeper, Mitchell, had been between the sticks, one or two would have been of the opinion that if Easty had been between the sticks he would have pulled off something spectacular and we’d have won the game.

From here on in the match reverted more to what one would expect.

With another half an hour of the game still to come we could have crumbled completely so there is something to be taken from the fact we didn’t gift a fourth and that included defending a corner or two.

Lewis Butroid came closest for the Iron with a spectacular effort from some way out that passed just by the angle where post meets crossbar to Eastwood’s left. Scunthorpe did indeed look the likelier of sides to grab a winner but we weren’t without the odd chance either.

After the event I’ve tried to identify additional reasons to explain what happened. This got me thinking about the substitutions. I wouldn’t have removed Henry or Ricky Holmes although to be fair the latter wasn’t having his most noticeable of games. But then I checked the timing of these changes. It was 3-2 before the first was made.

Oh well, we just have to move on and take some comfort that we’re now unbeaten in six, have scored six in the last two games and hope that crazy six minutes was just an aberration.

Although it’s often of great interest to get the views of an opposition supporter I don’t usually hunt them out before writing a FV. However I can’t resist quoting from the vlog of a 42 year old Scunthorpe supporter I stumbled across.

It’s quite telling that although we each watched the same game we both have eyes mainly for our own sides. What is shared is the deep despair and almost indescribable joy football can bring, although of course here the euphoria of a fan from Lincolnshire will be a head holding moment for a visitor from the Shires.

In the first half he was understandably down in the dumps and even more so when our second and third went in. They needed someone like Jamie Mackie to do the “niggly stuff”.  Good spot sir, I hope all in our fan base recognise this. Scunthorpe had no commitment and were deemed abysmal but he added “to be honest Oxford aren’t much better” although we did “play a bit more football than them”. He should have seen us earlier in the season.

At the start of the second half Scunthorpe had no fire and weren’t getting stuck in. They didn’t have a clue and it was way too easy for Oxford. It’s absolute “garbage”. The players are just picking up their wage packets. That’s not how I saw it.

“Look, people are leaving and there are 35 minutes left. It’s absolute gash. It’s laughable. Its soul destroying they just don’t give a toss. Oxford’s walking through us”.

When their first went in he was that underwhelmed that he refused to clap.

“If we can make a comeback, great but it will only be papering over the cracks.”

“Inside I want this to go in so badly……..oh, what a gowal. 3-2. Game on. Let’s ‘av it. Happy days. Come on Scunny. I’m getting into it now. Am I allowed ta. There’s a sense of urgency.”

“Yes, get in, come on. ‘av it. Oh my days. I didn’t think we had it in us. This could be our turning point.”

Meanwhile we were sat glumly in the away stand experiencing the very opposite of emotions.

Cheap round

That’s football. Two sides on the pitch and two sides to every coin. And speaking of coins not many were needed to buy a pint of Sam Smiths Old Brewery Bitter in the Berkeley Hotel. Just two quid a pint. Get in.

And that also gives a neat link to our bench where the man on loan from Reading still sits, largely unused. Unwanted also? But there’s a lot of games to go before the window is opened up again.

The coming week brings two cup games, one of which I couldn’t give a toss about and the other I’m very much looking forward to but with a certain amount of trepidation.

 

 

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