OPINION: Are Scunthorpe starting to turn the corner?

It’s only a few weeks ago that the majority of Iron fans were already hitting the panic button, and beginning to worry about falling through the trap door to the abyss of non league football. Fast forward to today and we find ourselves in a much stronger position, albeit not that much better off in terms of league position.

On the heels of the “never gonna happen” relegation from League One, it took Scunny until mid September to register their first league win. That 3-0 win against a woeful Morecambe team looked like being the first steps to some kind of turnaround under the management of Paul Hurst.

That win against Morecambe seemed to be the game where we had finally found a strike partnership that was going to work well together. Kevin Van Veen had been the man that fans had been desperate to see given a chance, and his pairing with Jamie Proctor looked to be the exact tonic we needed. Then Proctor suffered an injury which reportedly will see him out of action for at least a couple of weeks, whilst Van Veen also missed out due to injury and many would have begun to worry once again.

Step forward Jamie Ward.

A man with a good goalscoring pedigree, who can count Sheffield United, Derby County and Nottingham Forest on his cv, he signed for the team last week and made his debut in what looked a difficult game with Bradford City. After only a few minutes anyone with any worries about the missing front pairing would have had their fears put to the back of their minds.

Ward worried the Bradford defence with his running and ability to cover every blade of grass on the Sands Venue Stadium pitch. He expertly converted from the penalty spot for his debut goal, he tackled for every ball, he got his team fired up and looked like he could still be running round well after the final whistle. In what was a much improved team performance, the effort and commitment shown by Ward could very well prove to be the icing on the cake for the Iron going forward.

It’s easy to heap praise on strikers and attacking players, but now seems like the perfect time to point out something that has become glaringly obvious to most fans. The improvement in the current back four has been startling as much as it’s been massively appreciated by all concerned.

When Andy Butler returned to the club in the summer it was expected that he would be the rock that the Iron’s League Two campaign would have been built around. The early games of the season saw a shaky back line that could concede and then concede again only minutes later. At times it seemed almost inevitable that if we let one goal in another would very quickly follow.

Against Bradford on Saturday it was almost like watching a totally different team. Rory McArdle was nothing short of outstanding as he managed to repel attack after attack. Alongside him Harrison McGahey brought the ball out of defence with the calmness of a seasoned international, it also helps that he has a fantastic turn of pace. This centre back pairing appear to be building a good partnership that could make it hard for Butler to break back into the team when he is fit once again. Add the fantastic Junior Brown at left back, and the more dependable by the week James Perch, and this could finally be a defence to carry us up the league.

In midfield Matty Lund lost his head somewhat with a rash challenge leading to his red card, but the performance of Yann Songo’o in the midfield enforcer role showed that he could be one of the signings of the season. Alex Gilliead shows all the signs of becoming a fan favourite in the coming season and the returning from injury Ryan Colclough could be the next player to go on to big things after making the move to North Lincolnshire.

It’s finally looking like Paul Hurst is putting his own stamp on his vision of Scunthorpe United. A squad that could and should be much higher up the league. Options in pretty much every position. Players coming back from injury that can make a real impact at this level. If the Bradford game is anything to go by, then the run up to the start of 2020 will be very different to what we saw 12 months ago.

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19/20 EP09 – Bradford Boost

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