Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Scunthorpe United have arguably done better transfer business in January than they did over the summer.
Having spent big on two unsuccessful attempts to get into the Championship, chairman Peter Swann had to scale back on the investment.
The problem though was that, having lost so many first team regulars from last season, this new squad lacked depth and quality, so the Iron were enduring a season of relegation struggle, rather than the quieter campaign that had been expected.
Swann, to his credit, has responded superbly: he addressed supporters’ concerns openly and honestly on an unofficial podcast (Iron-Bru) and has since made five very strong additions.
Tony McMahon, who showed his set piece proficiency at Bradford, offers technical class to better that of most right-backs in this division, as he showed in last week’s 1-1 draw with Sunderland, which was an encouraging team performance.
The equalizing goalscorer against the Black Cats, Adam Hammill, scored from a wonderful curling effort; the former Barnsley has matured to become a reliable, hardworking professional who will endear himself to the natives after joining this month.
👀 @SUFCOfficial fans will want to see this one again!
👏 Take a bow, Adam Hammill!pic.twitter.com/FYADzdJ8VY
— Sky Bet League One (@SkyBetLeagueOne) January 20, 2019
Kevin Van Veen, who showed his ability in his previous stint at Glanford Park, offers a technical alternative to speedy forwards Kyle Wootton and George Thomas, who normally start wide of industrious front-man Lee Novak.
Scunthorpe’s substitute’s bench looks far stronger now than it did for their last defeat, Boxing Day’s 2-0 home loss to Luton, which may be why they have scored five second half goals in four 2019 encounters.
Fleetwood are unbeaten in four league games thanks to their midweek 3-0 win at AFC Wimbledon.
— Fleetwood Town FC (@ftfc) January 22, 2019
Joey Barton tends to favour a 4-3-3 formation with a narrow front three, which comprised of Paddy Madden, Ched Evans and Ashley Nadesan at Kingsmeadow.
Madden and Evans have been top scorers in this division in previous seasons while Nadesan showed on loan at Carlisle that he can inject not only pace into forward play, but also clever movement that creates space for others.
Barton was even able to bring Ashley Hunter, one of the most creative performers in the division, off the bench and he scored the third goal after Evans’ brace.
On paper, the Cod Army have one of the better squads in the division but they have been let down at times by individual errors, especially in the second half of games.
After a 2-2 home draw with Oxford earlier this month, when they gave away a two-goal half-time lead, head coach Joey Barton said that he could no longer defend some of his senior players for making basic errors.
The last two games offer some improvement in that regard, with the Wimbledon result preceded by a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Rochdale with 10 men, after Lewie Coyle was sent off.
With Coyle suspended, Barton deployed Wes Burns, who started his career as a striker, at right-back for his powerful forward runs; if nothing else, that highlights Barton’s desire for front-foot Fleetwood football.
Scunthorpe’s recent acquisitions make them a slightly different level of opposition to Wimbledon and Rochdale, because they could penetrate even well-organized sides due to the quality they now possess outside the penalty area.
Equally, the Iron’s recent improvement does not rid them of the division’s worst defensive record, with 54 goals shipped in 29 games.
Given the technical ability that both teams possess, we can expect an entertaining encounter.
Both Teams To Score – 8/11