McCall looking to build on spirit shown against Oxford

Stuart McCall was proud of his side’s comeback from 3-0 down against Oxford United on Saturday.

The Iron were less than impressive in the first half and went in a goal down at the break. The U’s notched two early goals in the second half, to go three goals up and surely put the game beyond any doubt.

However, Scunthorpe hit three goals in six incredible minutes to claw themselves back into the game and McCall was pleased with the spirit his team showed.

“I’m proud of the comeback naturally. Yes, we need to eradicate the goals conceded – we know that. But we can build on the spirit – if you’ve no spirit in your club then there’s no point in being about,” the Iron boss told the club’s website.

“They showed they have that character and desire that they want to be here and make a success of what we’re going to do.

“It’s mixed emotions – obviously one of relief because we’ve stopped the run (of losing games) we were on. We desperately wanted the three points today but at 3-0 down if somebody had given us a point we’d have snapped their hands off for it.”

It is no secret that McCall favours an attacking 4-4-2 formation, but he opted for a 4-2-3-1 system against Oxford and acknowledged that they have to change things up in order to get results.

“We know we’ve got to try and make ourselves a little harder to play against and to beat. It worked out fairly well away at Blackpool, where we limited their opportunities and were solid in the way we played. I think it’s very hard to go and play like that at home, but we tweaked it a little bit today and went with an extra man in the middle of the park to help us, knowing they play that system.

“I think when you do that, it’s all about getting the first goal. I think they scored with their first shot and it deflected off big Cam (Cameron Burgess) and into the net past Jak (Alnwick). When you’re in a run like the one we’ve been on, then things like that go against you.”

The United manager reverted back to his favoured formation after just twenty minutes, when he brought on Ike Ugbo for midfielder James Horsfield.

“We decided to make an early change to the shape because once they went a goal up in recent games they’ve shut up shop and that’s how they’ve been getting their points. We threw Ike (Ugbo) on and went a little bit more direct.

“You saw the deficiency in us again in certain areas and I think there was a lack of confidence in certain parts. You want the lads to take the ball and play but in certain areas when you lack confidence, have gone a goal behind and the crowd are a bit edgy and you’re a bit edgy, we have to just go a bit more forward and get it in areas that will hurt Oxford rather than play in front of them.

“I didn’t think there was anything in the first half, and we had one chance just before half-time from a corner. We had a lot of corners, and the wind was affecting the game a little bit.

“In the second half, we came out and wanted to get out of the blocks like we did early on in the second period against Plymouth. We forced a couple of corners and free-kicks and then with their first attack they scored and it became 2-0. The third one was from a corner, we cleared it and it then landed for them.”

McCall admitted that he was still optimistic even at 3-0 and he was pleased with the commitment that his side showed from that moment on.

“You look at the clock, and I’m probably more optimistic than pessimistic, and at 3-0 it was ‘see if we can get one goal and put some pressure on them’. Obviously, we did and they were three quick goals. We then had chances in the final stages of the game to nick a winner, which would have been outstanding.

“What you have to guarantee as a player is your absolute commitment and go until the final whistle, regardless of what the result is – whether you’re three up or three down for instance.

“When you’re in a dressing room, you look around and you need people to stand up and be counted. We had that in certain areas today, which dragged us back into the game. That part of it bodes well for the future because you don’t want a weak mentality in the side.

“We have areas where we’ll make mistakes, there’s no doubt about that, but they’re honest mistakes – it’s not through lack of effort or lack of desire. They all want to do the best they possibly can.”

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Written by James Murray

Aspiring journalist and Scunthorpe United fan studying at the London South Bank University.

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