Behind the Iron Curtain
Scunthorpe boss Nigel Adkins seemed content with the pay off from his tactical plan in the 1-1 draw with Reading at the weekend, although why one might choose merely to counter attack against a side with one home win since January is a whole other question. Still, given the unbalanced nature of the play, the Iron are right to be content with a point, especially given the absence of Martyn Woolford and Joe Murphy.
Given that Scunny rarely ventured into the final third, the former’s absence was largely irrelevant, but his goalkeeping compadre’s injury might have been a major problem, had it not been for a faultless display from stand in Josh Lillis — the 22 year old has made only a handful of league appearances, a good number of which have been two leagues lower, but one wouldn’t have guessed. In front of him, Adkins has been intensely, but perhaps blindly, loyal to pretty much the same back four all season. Marcus Williams, Cliff Byrne, David Mirfin and summer acquisition Rob Jones are a far from secure back line, as evidenced by the goals against column. The manager showed the first signs of a willingness to break things up by substituting skipper Byrne on the hour, after he had been persistently skinned by Jobi McAnuff.
As is the fashion these days, Scunthorpe lined up with five across midfield. At times, they were over-run, but the central trio of Sam Togwell, Grant McCann and Josh Wright stuck to their task, with the latter in particular showing busy industry. Garry Thompson stood in for Woolford on the left and Paul Hayes played a slightly more withdrawn role than usual at wide right. On first glance, this may seem like a purely defensive formation, but such is the movement of Gary Hooper, Scunny’s best player and goalscorer on the day, that the Clarets will always have an outlet. Hooper’s display occasionally reminded me of one of the home side’s greats, Nicky Forster: quick, direct running and a willingness to shoulder attacking responsibilities on his own will be priceless attributes as Scunthorpe face up to an inevitable battle against the drop.