Cox faces selection conundrum as Iron look to bounce back

With two disappointing defeats leaving a bitter aftertaste Iron boss Neil Cox once again faces tough decisions ahead of tonight’s game with League Two’s pace setters Cambridge United, writes Matty Holt.

Scunthorpe’s impressive revival ended last Tuesday with defeat at Bolton Wanderers and they failed to bounce back with another lack-lustre showing at home to Cheltenham Town on Saturday afternoon.

With fixtures coming thick and fast this month, Scunthorpe face a difficult period with forthcoming opponents Cambridge, Exeter and Salford all occupying places within the top 10 of the division and amongst the favourites for promotion in May with a number of bookmakers, with various offers available with

Stern tests are to follow, but Neil Cox must make key decisions in the next 10 days to ensure his side once again avoid slipping dangerously down the League Two table.

Mason O’Malley

Throughout the last few weeks, there has been a noticeable absentee from the starting X1.

The player I’m referring to is Mason O’Malley, a wonderfully gifted 19 year old, who has used the 2020/21 campaign to stake a first team claim within this largely inexperienced Iron side.

With only 3 starts in the last 6 league appearances, O’Malley has been unfortunate to miss out to the more experienced choice in Junior Brown.

Brown has far superior know how in defensive areas, but Mason has a wonderful tool that Neil Cox is failing to utilise – his superb delivery. Scunthorpe must learn to integrate this into attacking phases of play to give the side a different offensive opportunity.

Abo Eisa, Devarn Green and Alex Gillead love to drive at teams with pace in order to push Scunthorpe up the pitch but with O’Malley’s crossing from the left and pin point deliveries, its a real shame and is to the sides’ disadvantage when he does not feature.

If Assistant Coach Mark Lillis could spot the potential for Ryan Loft and even the returning Kevin van Veen to attack Mason’s deliveries, it may just creative one or two goals from wide areas we haven’t seen in this side for a number of years.

Strongest back 4

It’s not been an easy start to life as a First Team football manager, especially with an injury list as long and as prominent as the one we see season after season at Scunthorpe United.

New signing Manny Onariase has had a hernia and groin strains to contend with, Harrison McGahey has missed long spells of the season and now George Taft looks set to miss two months with an ankle injury.

But with 4 centre backs at his disposal and a good selection at that, Neil Cox must start to let a centre back partnership blossom in order to build on steady foundations we have started to see.

Taft’s signing was a masterstroke as he joined from Bolton Wanderers and Jacob Bedeau only featuring intermittently, you would have to say its been Onariase, Taft and McGahey as the Iron’s go to three – but that may have to change.

Elsewhere, Captain Jordan Clarke has looked shaky. Jai Rowe offers a youthful alternative – and has been impressive when called upon too.

Injuries are part of the game and that’s a given, but Cox must find consistency in the second half of the season in order to develop a defensive rapport.

Kevin van Veen and Ryan Loft

With KVV suffering his most injury hit season since his return to the club back in January 2019, the Dutchman returned to partner Loft this weekend and it’s a partnership I feel needs time to blossom.

Loft has been terrific since the turn of the year, netting four goals in his last six games and relies on his hold up play to bring others into the game.

On the other hand, van Veen’s sparkle and individual brilliance is a tool which cannot be ignored, especially at League Two level.

As good as any other forward on his day and entering his best years in my opinion, keeping hold of both players in the Summer would be a big statement for next season.

Van Veen most definitely benefitted from Tom Hopper’s similar attacking approach in his short time with the club and with Loft a similar style player, it should again prove fruitful in the weeks to come.

Final thoughts

With difficult tests to come for Cox and his side, Scunthorpe will have to be better in all areas and relish the opportunity to cause an upset in games they will enter as underdogs.

A tough test for sure – but a chance for some to perhaps warrant new contracts when conversations begin to take place before the summer months swing around.

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