Scunthorpe manager Stuart McCall might find himself facing a selection crisis as he picks a team to take on Burton in the FA Cup first round on Saturday. The Iron have been ravaged by injuries of late and their next league game is not until November 17, when they visit Bristol Rovers. The boss admitted that several players were battling through the pain barrier in their stirring 3-3 comeback draw against Oxford Utd at the weekend. He may be tempted to rest several of them for the cup clash, yet a run in the FA Cup would provide a welcome financial boost, so he faces a bit of a conundrum.
Burton have won their last two games to climb up to 14th in the table, and they are the favourites to win the first round game on Saturday. BetOnline has the latest FA Cup odds a respected and well-reviewed betting site, the odds will show you that there is little to choose between them in the betting, with Burton at 6/4 and Scunthorpe at 13/8. You would normally expect the home team to be favourite when two sides from the same division meet in the cup, but it reflects the Iron’s poor run of form.
In mitigation, McCall has faced a horrendous injury crisis. Matt Gilks, Rory Watson, Lee Novak, Stephen Humphrys, Matthew Lund, Funso Ojo and Josh Morris have all been struck down by a variety of complaints. Lund and Novak played in the 3-3 draw with Oxford, but they were far from 100%, while Cameron Borthwick-Jackson only made it to half-time as he has a bad hip. Oxford boss Karl Robinson sympathised with McCall, calling him a top manager, but he would have ben rubbing his hands with glee as his side raced to a 3-0 lead.
Yet he then had to watch on as the Iron staged a momentous comeback, as three goals in six minutes from Jordan Clarke, George Thomas and Charlie Goode rescued a point and ended a run of four straight defeats. The bookmakers do not see Scunthorpe as being in any immediate danger: they are behind Bradford, Plymouth, AFC Wimbledon and Gillingham in the relegation odds and they are likely to rally if and when their injured stars return to contention.
McCall praised his team’s grit and determination after the Oxford game, but lamented their lapses in concentration at the back. “When you are 3-0 down at home with the run we are on it is a good point, but before the game we wanted to win,” he said. “There are mixed emotions. There is relief, it stops the rot and now we have got a couple of weeks break until Bristol Rovers.” That suggests he is already looking to the next league game, and that the cup is not a priority. McCall said the pressure is off in the game against Burton and insisted he wants to win it, but the temptation will be to give the likes of Lund, Novak and Borthwick-Jackson a rest.
The Iron take on Mansfield in the group stage of the Football League trophy on Tuesday, and that looks like another good opportunity to give a few youngsters a run out. Right now the league should probably take precedence for Scunthorpe, as they will want to put some distance between themselves and the spectre of relegation. Being fifth favourites for the drop when three teams go down will make troublesome reading for the fans and they will be keen for the Iron to get a result at Bristol next time out.