Crawley has never been a happy hunting ground for the Iron and this Saturday proved there was to be no change in fortunes, writes Matty Holt.
Neil Cox’s side slumped to a 1-0 away defeat in West Sussex and never really looked like scoring throughout the 90 minutes. Miles Hippolyte struck the Town post on the hour mark, but a relatively easy afternoon for Reds keeper Glenn Morris was to follow.
For the second successive league game, SUFC boss Cox decided to stick with 3 centre backs in a 3-1-4-2 set up. George Hornshaw and Miles Hippolyte were deployed as wing backs with stand in captain Alex Gillead continuing his new role in the centre of midfield.
It was however, an afternoon to forget for ex-Carlisle man Ryan Loft, who failed to keep up with the pace of the game across his 70 minutes on the field. New boy and debutant Kenan Dunnwald-Turan looked the brighter of the pair as he dropped deep when required and tried to link up with Gillead and Hippolyte multiple times within the first 45.
But, it was the hosts who struck first at The People’s Pension Stadium. Nathan Ferguson picked up the ball and excellently sprayed the ball low and wide to Tyler Frost who wrong footed young George Hornshaw to subsequently square for Nichols to sweep home past Iron keeper Rory Watson.
Hornshaw again throughout the game struggled to keep up with the pace of league football. Numerous times he was found out by winger Frost who could of added more to Town’s tally in the first half if it wasn’t for some resolute Scunthorpe defending.
The Iron are crying out for a more experienced full back, admittedly on both sides of the pitch. Is this why Neil Cox is resorting to a 3 at the back formation with wing backs instead of one with more natural full backs? Jai Rowe, Jordan Clarke both however do currently remain sidelined due to injury.
I cannot be too critical of young Hornshaw however, who did have a better second half along with U23 graduate Mason O’Malley. The ex-Huddersfield Town youngster entered the field on 45 minutes and within minutes, burst forward down the right flank and arguably should of done better. Whether considered either a shot or a pass, his right footed effort flashed past the right post with Assistant Coach Mark Lillis later admitting it is something he is trying to coach the youngsters to improve on within their game.
Tyler Cordner again seems to be a real hidden gem the Iron have stumbled across the summer, as the Bournemouth loanee looks assured with and without the ball across the back line and does so confidently considering his footballing pedigree to date. His ability to seek out a pass once retrieving possession is for me his biggest asset, a natural ball playing centre back, his development is certainly one to watch across the 20/21 campaign.
Alex Gillead again, was perhaps Scunthorpe’s best player across the 90 minutes, the 24 year old was switched to his more natural right midfield position in the second half and was a threat once receiving the ball inside the Crawley half, directly running at their backline. His performances have also warranted merit from Iron head boss Cox, who admitted, he is striving for a better ‘team performance’ rather than just certain ‘individuals’ throughout this young look SUFC side.
The question heading into the Carlisle tie at the weekend is whether Scunthorpe stick with this 3-1-4-2 once again or whether they change to a more traditional 4-4-2. The 3 at the back allows time for the two centre midfielders to see a lot of the ball but doesn’t however give the Iron much support and flexibility when driving forward into the attacking thirds.
Throughout the tie on Saturday afternoon, Loft was constantly left isolated when the Iron looked to counter quickly and whether that is purely a fitness issue or a formation issue remains frankly to be seen. Scunthorpe have to either be better at transitioning out from a defending scenario and adapt to the 3-1-4-2’s counter attacking openings, or switch back to the more conventional 4-4-2 and use current players we have to our advantage.
We are however, forgetting the Iron are once again plagued with absentees with key players Kevin van Veen, John McAtee, Ryan Colclough and Jordan Clarke all side lined once again.
McAtee is the biggest miss within this ever-changing Scunthorpe United puzzle, he is arguably my current favourite SUFC player for the sole reason he is direct and gives us fans excitement and attacking spark when he touches the ball in claret and blue.
It’s an experimental time at Scunthorpe United and we are all fully aware of the task that presents itself but with now 3 games in to this campaign I am more confident in my position as a supporter than I was just a month ago.
The biggest issue for us all is the formation no doubt, Neil Cox either must grasp that the current formation does not work, or be allowed to bring in players that will suit this system. I think we can all guess how that one is going to pan out!