Scunthorpe v Pompey: The opposition view

Scunthorpe keeer Matt Gilks
Scunthorpe keeer Matt Gilks
Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder will relish facing former club

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A top-six finish is the absolute minimum aim for Scunthorpe this season – and they are probably reasonably happy with how it has gone.

Currently, Graham Alexander’s side sit in sixth spot having lost just one match so far.

That was a home defeat to Blackburn earlier this month – a game the Iron dominated and people thought very unlucky to lose.

Having said that, the 1-0 loss represented only the third goal Alexander’s side have conceded in the league this season.

That’s five clean sheets from the opening eight league fixtures. Fans would like to see a couple more goals from their side, but the team remain tight at the back.

Funnily enough, the side started the campaign in a 3-5-2 system, but since switching to a 4-4-2 have become a different proposition.

Still, it has been very, very good so far. I don’t think many supporters have much to complain about at the moment.

Expectations are understandably high after last season leading League One for so long, only to finish third.

They fell away during a dismal February and early March, going nine games without a win.

There were a couple of factors behind that, one being a last-gasp defeat at promotion-rivals Bolton on New Year’s Eve, when Scunthorpe played well. It knocked confidence.

During that barren spell, there was even a 3-2 defeat at Gillingham, having led 2-0 with 13 minutes to go. All the hosts’ goals came from the penalty spot – and it was three vital points dropped in the long run.

There was also an issue when the captain, Stephen Dawson, and a few others asked for new deals, but the chairman couldn’t commit until he knew what division the team would be in.

That upset some of the players, clearly something wasn’t right behind the scenes.

Ultimately, the Iron lost in the play-offs to Millwall, despite a goalless draw in the first leg at The Den.

You could see the devastation on some of the players’ faces and there was a determination to put that right this season and not leave promotion to the lottery of the play-offs.

In the summer, goalkeepers Luke Daniels and Joe Anyon departed – very, very capable keepers – and Matt Gilks came in, who is better than both.

Dawson went to Bury and the club’s chief scout identified midfielder Funso Ojo from Willem II and he has been a revelation.

Meanwhile, defender Rory McArdle arrived from Bradford and has done really well.