The Iron’s Goalkeeping Conundrum

Iron Bru columnist, Matty Holt gives his thoughts on the much debated golkeeping situation at Scunthorope United.

For many Scunthorpe United fans, the goalkeeping position has been a contentious topic for the past 4-5 seasons.

Since the departure of Luke Daniels, or even further some would argue, the Joe Murphy era, the Iron have had a multitude of keepers between the sticks in Claret and Blue, some good, some not so good. During the Alexander era, Luke was the ever present number one. When Daniels departed for Brentford, ex Blackpool man Matt Gilks stepped in and was a suitable replacement despite his age at the time. However, an unfortunate knee injury to Gilks ruled him out of the second leg of the play-off chasing campaign. Up stepped Rory Watson.

Watson that evening for me, performed well, especially after theoretically being ‘chucked in at the deep end’ in what was the Iron’s biggest game of the season. Losing 2-0 on the night, the ex-Hull City youngster pulled off some superb saves and did what he needed to do when called up on across the 90 minutes.

Below Average

However, in my opinion, the same cannot be said for what has followed at SUFC. Slipping down into England’s fourth tier two season ago, his performances for me, have been below average. There is no questioning Rory’s effort, compared to some other players we have seen across the last few seasons. As a local lad, you can see there is still a burning desire to perform well, as the Iron’s number one.

The stats however, do not look great. As provided by @iron_stats, we can now analyse the key numbers behind Rory’s performances and ask the question, is it now time for a shake up ahead of Scunthorpe’s league campaign opener on Saturday afternoon or will Watson be given the nod once again.

In 44 appearances for the Iron (43 starts, 1 as a sub), Rory has only kept 3 clean sheets in that time, a ratio of only 7% of games played.

Furthermore, the ex-Ferriby man has conceded 73 goals in that time, at an average of 1.66 per games. He has also conceded 2+ goals in 25 of his 44 appearances.

The win ratio for the Iron during his time on the pitch, is also a little alarming. Scunthorpe have W8, D15 and L21 with only a 18% win ratio.

The win ratio is a tough one to look into, the Iron over the past two seasons have seen many a back 4 in front of them due to injuries or departures and consistence has never really been imminent during Rory’s time here. This was no more evident than the defence that lined up against Port Vale on Saturday with George Hornshaw featuring for the first time in his career, along with Tyler Cordner making his ‘league football’ debut.

On the plus side for Rory, of the 4 penalties faced in his time with Scunthorpe, he has kept out exactly half, with spot kick heroics coming against Morecambe and Crawley Town.

His save percentage for the 2019/20 campaign was 66%, which placed him 23 out of 27 shot-stoppers in the division, with only Lewis Ward of Exeter City, Barry Roche of Morecambe, Conrad Logan of Mansfield Town and Zeus de la Paz of Oldham Athletic below him in the League Two rankings.

Another hot topic for Iron fans is the 23-year-old’s kicking. If we compare these too the two other Goalkeepers at the club last season, there isn’t much difference across the board.

Jake Eastwood tops the chart just, with a 34% pass accuracy, Rory comes in next with a 33% accuracy, closely followed by Ian Lawlor, with a 32% pass accuracy.

His long passing is also fairly good statistically, with Watson boasting a 26% long pass accuracy, ahead of Eastwood with 25% and Lawlor with 24%.

Time to kick on

With young competition following Watson closely this season, it is quite clear to see that he will be the club’s number one moving forward and I for one, am okay with this. However, this for me, must be a ‘kicking on’ season for Rory.

Our recruitment has been youth-minded and yes there will no doubt be mistakes, but Watson has been at the club for long enough now to springboard his performances up a gear and solidify a strong season as the clubs number one.

Against Port Vale, he was much improved, commanding his area well for the majority, and looking assured and reliable when called upon against a fairly lack-lustre Port Vale outfit.

The question remains however, is he a strong enough goalkeeper to push Scunthorpe back to where they really want to be. He has all the support and all the tools to do so, it’s time we saw a little more from him and a campaign that can really quieten those doubters once and for all.










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