Iron Bru columnist Matty Holt takes a detailed look into Scunthorpe’s stunning thrashing of Harrogate Town on Tuesday evening.
Heading to North Yorkshire without the talismanic Kevin Van Veen on the back of an extremely lack lustre defeat to Bolton Wanderers last time out, Iron fans could be forgiven for thinking they may not have had the firepower to overcome Harrogate on Tuesday evening.
Bolton came to the Sands Venue last week and dominated most of the proceedings, briefly halting the Iron’s steady progress in turning around their dismal start to the campaign. Andrew Tutte was magnificent in the middle of the park, as Scunthorpe gave the ex-Rochdale man way too much time to orchestrate and dictate the game in the 1-0 defeat.
It made me question whether whether the Iron were lacking in the middle of the park or whether midfield duo Beestin and Spence were just a little leggy after a hectic run of games.
With strong recent performances from both players in recent weeks, it seemed unusual that the midfield pair merely chased white shirted shadows as Bolton edged to a narrow victory. But thankfully, all was forgiven a week later. Beestin controlled the game from his central midfield role, a position Neil Cox has admitted the 23-year-old is still growing into and Spence executed the high press perfectly as the Iron dominated in the middle of the park.
Their dominance was underlined in the first half when Beestin, who was originally dispossessed, strongly and fairly won his 50/50 with Connor Kirby to win the ball back, before John McAtee delightfully slotted in Abo Eisa for his first of two that evening. It was no surprise that the Harrogate man was dragged off come the start of the second half.
It was pleasing to see John McAtee back to his best, and time and time again he weaved and tricked his way through yellow bodies to keep attacking moves alive. The assist for Eisa was a timely reminder of why he attracted the attention of top level clubs in last summer’s window.
A notable mention must also go to young Mason O’Malley who has found it tough attempting to forge a regular spot in this Iron side, with the experienced Junior Brown and Lewis Butroid also competing for the same role.
Brown’s absence gave O’Malley a rare start and the former Huddersfield youngster undoubtedly took his chance. His link up with Abo Eisa was impressive and the full back nearly had an assist in he first half when his delightful cross was defended well by Burrell, preventing a certain goal. With confidence high after a strong 90 minutes, there should be no reason why he will not get the nod to face Orient on Saturday.
The biggest and most welcome improvement has been the apparent end to the defensively frailties which were so infuriating to watch in the first period of the season. Individual errors, penalties conceded and goalkeeping howlers seemed to dominate the post match conversation on social media, but the Iron have since stopped the rot and looked more classy across the backline.
The biggest problem was clearly a lack of experience that Cox bemoaned in frustrated post-match interview following heavy defeats to Forest Green and Cambridge, but the returning pair of Manny Onariase and Harrison McGahey have shown that Scunthorpe’s league position does not reflect the quality we all know this team possesses when key men are available.
Onariase is proving to be the dependable addition we had hoped he may be following his move from National League side Dagenham and Redbridge in the summer, also popping up with two goals since his inclusion following hernia surgery.
Jacob Bedeau will perhaps feel hard done by following a goal and a clean sheet at Oldham just weeks ago, although speculation surrounding his future continues to tremble on quietly in various online news outlets.
It was also another fruitful evening for Alex Gilliead, without a doubt Scunthorpe’s best player of the season, and his quality shone throughout.
His willingness, endeavour and tricky footwork shows why he has received countless praise from United fans and pundits this season. On song, Gilliead is joy to watch. His fantastic display culminated in a terrific driving run to set up Ryan Loft for the Iron’s fourth goal on 74 minutes.
Next up it’s a home tie against high flyers Leyton Orient, who head into the meeting seventh in the league table and three unbeaten in the league. It represents another tough test for Cox and his side, but with momentum and confidence starting to build I’m optimistic of another three points come 3pm on Saturday afternoon.
I sure do hope Abo Eisa has brushed up on those corners in the build-up this week too…