The season that started with Burton Albion will end with them on Saturday unless we find the win needed to keep our faint play-off hopes alive. Otherwise the remaining five games of the season will become just an exercise in player assessment for next season.
It has to be said, our play-off chances are slim. We are now 10 points off the last play-off place with just 18 points to play for. So to qualify for the end-of-season promotion lottery we have to do a lot of winning, starting with Burton, while play-off hopefuls like Millwall, Bradford, Gillingham and Walsall have to do a lot of losing.
Although our remaining games are, on paper, winnable – Burton (h), Crewe (a), Bury (h), Peterborough (a) and Port Vale (h), Sheffield United (a) – recent evidence says we are not ruthless enough to kill off games when we are on top. So while Burton are certainly there for the taking based on their last three results – two draws and a defeat – the question is whether we have what it takes to take them.
Burton continued a poor run of results by their standards with Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Bury – a late equaliser from on-loan Tyler Walker, son of former England defender Des, rescuing a point after the team had played the last 20 minutes with 10 men following the sending-off of Hamza Choudhury, who will be unavailable for Saturday. In the previous two games Burton had already lost 2-0 to Millwall on Easter Monday and could only draw 0-0 at home to struggling Oldham the previous Saturday.
It is difficult to know whether this dip in results has been caused by complacency, given the long-time league leaders’ imperious position for much of this season, or whether a dropping-off of intensity under the returning Nigel Clough – who replaced QPR-bound Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in December – has started to show through. Clough has certainly been trying to put a positive spin on the fact Burton lost top spot to Wigan last Saturday, saying: “We are a little bit less of a scalp now we aren’t top of the league – which might suit us.”
It doesn’t help Burton’s cause that they are not prolific scorers – just 51 goals in 40 games compared to 70 for leaders Wigan. Burton’s joint leading scorers – Lucas Atkins and our old boy Mark Duffy – have just eight goals each. So most of their games end up being tight affairs.
However, for Clough, the strength of his team lies in another area – hard work. “Everybody appreciates a team giving their all,” he says. “My players give absolutely everything, they don’t give in, they go to the end. We’re great believers that the honesty of the players will get us promotion.”
Don’t just take Clough’s word for it. After Burton’s late equaliser on Saturday, Bury manager David Flitcroft had to admit: “It was a really courageous performance by us and one that really deserved three points. But again, you’ve got a Burton team that didn’t lie down.”
His view on us? “Scunthorpe, with the new manager Graham Alexander coming in, the players will be looking to impress him for next season.” So he, for one, has written off our play-off hopes.
Scunny’s net return
Scunthorpe’s reputation for nurturing quality goalscorers is highlighted in the current top 10 of League One leading scorers. It contains no fewer than four Scunthorpe-linked players – Billy Sharp at Shefffield United with 18 goals, our own Paddy Madden also on 18, Barnsley’s Sam Winnall on 17 and Bury’s Leon Clarke on 14. It’s just a shame that all but Paddy play for other teams. We could do with another goalscorer – ie. someone who actually scores goals.
You may have read this week that Donny fans have been getting a bit shirty over the fact that One Direction member and big Donny fan Louis Tomlinson won a competition to design the team’s away shirt for next season. Some fans reckoned it was a fix, though the club say everything was above board when the design by Tomlinson and his grandad took 33.7 per cent of the public vote last month.
One presumes the critics were complaining about celebrity bias rather than the fact the team will have to wear a rather drab black and grey striped number on their travels next season. However, if Donny do go down, those colours will be quite fitting for the mood that will no doubt envelop the club on visits to the likes of Barnet, Newport and Forest Green.