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Diary: How can The Iron best get a result at Chelsea?

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We hope that this will be the kick-starter for many regular diary-type pieces here on Bru, with fellow Scunthorpe United connoisseurs discussing hot topics of the moment. We might have possibly nicked this completely original idea from that mob down the A180, but shush and don’t tell them that.

So what could be a hotter topic for us all than our imminent trip to Stamford Bridge? Not even those Jacket Potatoes at The Royal which you strongly suspect have just come straight out the microwave, that’s what. Never mind the fact that we’re all secretly not quite as excited to face Chelsea as were back in 2005; nothing will stop us from having a jolly good day out right?

Wrong!!! I’m sick of the idea that little old Scunthorpe must know their place in life and gracefully accept the tie’s expected c. £600k worth to us, like some sort of demented modern-day Oliver Twist with a Northern accent. There’ll be 3,000 Iron fans shelling out good money for the privilege – to all of whom we owe more than a white flag and a long trip home. If we don’t want to be the generation of football fans who let the greatest cup competition on earth die for a few lousy bob; then we have an obligation to do that little bit more than just make up the numbers.

So notwithstanding some of the very valid other issues / discussions surrounding the tie (to name but a few!); ticket allocation size, ticket prices, coach travel, the Sunday kick-off, parking, and the no-doubt extortionate Stamford Bridge refreshment prices – this diary piece is unapologetically devoted to how our players can best go about upsetting Chelsea’s expensively assembled yet suspiciously mouldy, apple cart.

Firstly and most importantly, we must be completely realistic about our on-pitch tactical approach. Mark Robins’ conservative 4-5-1 has at times come in for some well-deserved criticism (especially at home), but has nonetheless facilitated some excellent performances particularly away from home; which we must seek to emulate and exceed to stand our best chance of a positive result. Whilst Bradford’s astonishing victory there last season may warm their hearts – we are deluding ourselves if we think that such extraordinary lightening can strike in successive seasons so dramatically, or that we must go 2-0 down before we start playing!

No matter Chelsea’s selected personnel (and given their well-documented troubles this season, this author would be extremely shocked if they didn’t play a very strong side); their style through Guus Hiddink’s favoured 4-2-3-1 will not greatly alter and we must plan for their inevitable pace and movement off the ball. The way in which Pedro, Willian and Fabregas interchangeably interacted with each other and Diego Costa was scintillating in their evisceration of Crystal Palace last week.

Ultimately, how effectively we restrict their attempted enjoyment of the ball behind our midfield will decide whether we drive back up to North Lincolnshire with either our tails between our legs, or memories to last a lifetime. In order for the chances of the latter to increase; expect both Bishop and Dawson to zonally patrol those areas immediately in front of our Centre-Halves that our video analysts have shown Chelsea are most dangerous with the ball.

These two (or even three!) individuals will be absolutely integral to our efforts; because if we allow Chelsea’s key offensive players one-on-one situations in central areas with any of our defenders – we will already be in severe trouble. This as of itself is not necessarily a defensive setup per se, because we can vociferously attack to our heart’s content; but if we’re worse than a dodgy sieve defensively we have no platform to effectively do so.

One would almost prefer the predictability of an un-subtle Diego Costa over a potential ‘False 9’, or Loic Remy resting on the shoulders of our defensive line; for after a nice spell of subtle rabbit-punching and holding, there’s absolutely no reason why David Mirfin can’t boss an engineered physical confrontation with the fiery Spanish brute.

Our lack of defensive pace, especially in reactive situations, is an oft-lamented fact at Glanford Park and only through narrowing the game as much as possible alongside top-drawer concentration and application, can we even hope to exploit Chelsea’s relatively similar defensive troubles.

With Luke Williams and Paddy Madden destined for gruelling shifts tracking back out of possession: their pace, movement and distribution on the counter will be integral to any time we expect to spend attacking on Sunday. Exploiting the likes of Ivanovic, Zouma and Terry whilst they’re back-peddling or on the turn should be conditions our offensive players relish – and can certainly thrive under with the right service.

We as fans also have an obligation; and that’s to be absolutely supportive of the side’s efforts – even if they don’t reflect much of the above wisdom! Yes – we took the lead there last time, but to what end? It lasted a grand total of 18 minutes, and having lost 3-1 we went home cursing our supposed bad luck. No matter the opposition, it’s our responsibility to make our own luck!

After all – I’d much rather go home with even just a replay to look forward to after a low-scoring yet resolute draw; than be licking our wounds after a flamboyant high-scoring defeat. Wouldn’t you?

Written by Max Bell

Scunthorpe United Fan and match summariser for BBC Radio Humberside.

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