As Easter is all about resurrection, it is somewhat fitting that the chairman chose this particular time of year to appoint a new manager with the aim of bringing our promotion prospects back to life.
It is probably too much to expect a play-off place this season after the recent string of draws under Nick Daws but at least Graham Alexander can get a look at the squad in the final few games before deciding on a summer hit list. That assessment starts with our fourth game of the season against Barnsley at Oakwell on Good Friday and the Easter Monday match at home to Swindon.
Both encounters will be good barometers of what our squad needs, because both opponents are currently on good runs and will prove testing opponents. Barnsley have won six of their last nine league games to move into the final play-off spot, while Swindon have won four of the last six and sit just two points below us in the table with a game in hand.
However, for the Iron game Barnsley have a few problems to add to those which have already plagued their season. As well as having a number of key players out injured, Ashley Fletcher, who has scored four goals in 14 games on loan from Manchester United, has been named in the England under 20 squad to face Canada at Donny on Easter Sunday. Right-back Callum Connolly has been selected in the England under 19s team for the elite round of the UEFA Under 19s European Championship in Spain, while winger Lloyd Isgrove, on loan from Southampton, has been called up by Wales, so won’t be able to play against us.
Their team, as a result, will be a bit of an unknown quantity, which caretaker manager Paul Heckington readily acknowledged. “The squad is obviously smaller with the lads away on international duty as well, but it’s an opportunity for people,” he said. “We know we have got a good 11 whoever we put out and it’s about people stepping up and staking their claim.”
Barnsley have already endured a down and up season, sitting 20th in the table in November after eight straight defeats, before manager Lee Johnson turned things round then left for Bristol City in February. However, Heckington has kept the momentum going in the league while also taking Barnsley to Wembley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final against Oxford on April 3. They beat us on the Wembley way, 2-1 in September, while we also lost to them, on penalties, in the Capital One Cup. We did, however, beat them 2-0 at home in the league, with goals from Hopper and the now departed Sheffers.
The day was made even better by Sam Winnall missing a penalty, though he has been banging in the goals since, and has notched up 17 in the league so far this season.
As for Swindon, they have experienced a bit of an upturn since Luke Williams became the club’s fourth manager this season when he took temporary charge in December, his record of then winning six of 10 league games earning him a massive five-year contract earlier this month.
The 35-year-old, who has no previous managerial experience, also earned this praise from the club owner and former Norwich winger Lee Power: “He is a fantastic coach, the best I’ve come across in 25 years of football.” Quite a statement. On the pitch the man to look out for is striker Nicky Ajose, who is League One’s top scorer with 20 gaols since joining from Leeds in September.
What the referee will need to look out for is misbehaving Swindon players. Yesterday the club were again in trouble because of it, fined £15,000 after admitting an FA Charge of failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion following a fracas in the recent game against Millwall, who were fined £5,000. This follows a fine of £5,500 for Swindon following another fracas in a game against Leyton Orient in October 2014.