The Thursday Preview: Scunthorpe Vs Manchester City
I’m not sure what we expect from the Cup at the moment but, Reading and Leeds aside, this year’s has been another disappointing sideshow up to now. Seeing United and Liverpool stutter on home turf before millions on national TV is nice, but not much more than that. Maybe I’m being a little sceptical, but both ‘giant-killings’ were tinged by the fact that the Davids, neither of which would look out of place in the Prem, weren’t exactly the most unlikely of winners in the circumstances. Whereas in days of yore our Cup legends were put up on a plinth and their legacy folkily passed down and embellished through oral tradition, these days we’re left with Jermaine Beckford who, let’s face it, is no champion of the people.
Once again, the empty seats haven’t helped. Who wants to stay up and watch highlights of Pompey Vs Coventry if, however justified, their own fans couldn’t be bothered to turn up to the actual game? We’re only two games away from the quarters, but at least half of this weekend’s games will be played out in front of half-empty stadiums.
One tie that will be sold out is a potentially intriguing clash between one of our number and a newly-crowned behemoth: Scunthorpe Vs Manchester City. We’ve alluded to the home side’s brazen defiance of the low esteem they’re generally held in here, here and here and I’m curious to see how they will fare in a game that most commentators won’t give them a hope of winning. Many, including myself, had Scunthorpe down as a soft touch at the start of this season, assuming they’d made little progress since their ill-fated year in the Championship two terms ago, but a more robust Iron squad has held its own, smashing both Derby and Palace on the road and recording victories against two of the current top 6 in Sheffield United and Newcastle.
Most previews of the match will cite Scunthorpe’s feeble defence as the most likely game-breaker, and they’ll probably be right. The Iron have conceded 2, 3 and 4 goals on more than one occasion each this year, not to mention the 5 that were inauspiciously put past ‘keeper Joe Murphy in a third round League Cup tie against City themselves in October. The back-line that started that match will be a little different this time round. David Mirfin, Cliff Byrne and Marcus Williams should be joined by Andrew Wright, and the (outgoing?) Murphy replaced by City fan Josh Lillis between the sticks.
That City perhaps have their minds on other priorities could be telling. The media focus surrounding their League Cup Semi-final has been remarkable, which is probably something to do with the beeb’s live coverage. The dapper Roberto Mancini has said that he’s interested in progressing in the Cup, which is perhaps substantiated by the strength of the XI he fielded in a third round win at the Riverside, in which most of his first-team played some part. The likelihood is that he’ll put out his Benjanis rather than his Bellamys, but the athleticism of some of the Blues’ best players means that they’ll be a few gems on the bench at the very least.
Predictions? Judging by my prognosis last week, in which I basically foresaw two defeats for Alan Irvine in his first two games with Wednesday, I should really give them up. I’ve gone for a 3-1 away win in a work prediction league for this game, and I’ll stand by that. Scunny are all about creativity on the wings and the quality of their stout poacher Gary Hooper, and the match ought to be tighter than the City of Manc mauling of a few months ago. Perhaps too tight, though, for the Iron’s attacking diamonds to really grab hold of the game. City’s rocky backline on Tuesday exposed how they’re in need of a little defensive choreography, but the desire to preserve momentum should give them an edge if one’s required.