MATCH REPORT: Scunthorpe United vs Bristol Rovers
So here we go again. Another new dawn and for the third season in succession we enter unknown territory. A lovely sunny day with two pubs within touching distance of the ground. What more could us fans ask for on our return to League 1 football? Perhaps a home game or a much closer away game was too much to expect?
With basically the same squad as we had last season, we entered this game with far more questions than answers but safe in the knowledge that we had managed to retain our Manager and our top goalscorer. The team sheet brought no real surprises but disappointment for me that we were going with the wingback system which whilst last season at times I could understand the reason for it, with Bodin and Monty on the bench it immediately brought a very defensive look to the team but even more worrying for me was the midfield three of Sinclair, Lines and Ollie Clarke – an average League 2 standard at best midfield unit – and an area which I am sure is going to be very important in this league especially when we are playing any of the top 10 sides.
The game started off and in all honesty, we did not look in any way out of our depth in a first half where I would say Scunthorpe were distinctly average for a side that are widely expected to be in the top 7. If anything we were the better side and created a few good chances with one being expertly finished by the impressive Matty Taylor, who showed that he is well capable of scoring goals at this level. Sinclair was battling for everything and our defence was under very little pressure. The only pressure was really created by yet another awful referee who at times may as well have put on a sky blue shirt. Ollie Clarke kicked the ball away for a totally stupid and deserved booking then their player kicked the ball away and got… nothing. Free kicks, in general, seemed to go far more in favour of Scunthorpe but perhaps I am biased!
Mildenhall – 7
Without seeing a replay of the goals, I thought he stood no chance with any of them, made some good saves and dominated his area as well as I have seen him. I was going to give him an 8 but there are question marks over the second and third goals. I would say it was harsh to blame him as both players we were wide open, had far too much time, their shots were well placed and taken early which always makes it more difficult to save.
James Clarke – 6.5
Thought he had a reasonable game, defensively strong but always going to be the player substituted when the formation is changed. Personally, I would have substituted Leadbitter and moved Clarkey across to full back. That is not because I think James is the better full back but because it would have been less change in the back at the time as none of the back players IMO deserved to be substituted. Our problems were all in front of them.
Lockyer – 7.5 MOM
Caught out on the third goal but in all honesty, we were throwing everything at trying to equalise and had lost any organisation by then. He really caught the eye especially in the first half with his timely tackles and reading of the game. He will have no trouble playing at this standard and I thought overall the defence coped pretty well behind a very weak midfield.
Hartley – 7
Looked composed and strong in the tackle but not sure whether he is any quicker than either Parkes or McCrystal. It will be interesting to see how he settles in and whether he is the powerful, commanding, ball winning centre half we have been crying out for.
Leadbitter – 5
Sorry but he is not a wing back because neither his crossing or his skill is good enough. Looked totally lost and when he went back to full back we were under the cosh, his confidence was gone.
Ollie Clarke – 5
Stupid booking that pretty well made him ineffective. He may as well have been replaced at that moment because without the ability to put in crunching tackles, his main quality is gone. The only reason I can see that he is picked is to add a defensive side to the midfield and with the reasonable chance of being sent off by this referee for his next offence, he remained on edge for the rest of the game. Why Sinclair was brought off in preference to him I just couldn’t understand. The first half was definitely his better half where he tried hard and we didn’t really look at all stretched in any area of the field. He was non-existent in the second half for me as he often is and I see nothing other than a reasonable Conference – average League 2 player.
Lines – 5.5
Tried hard and ran with the ball on many occasions but his final pass far too often gave possession to the opposition. It was his mistake that gave the ball away for their player to run at us and score their second goal. The problem is that Chris is the only player in our midfield who tries to play a forward pass and the thing about playing forward is there is a risk to it and so far more often he is going to be seen to give the ball away.
Sinclair – 5.5
Ran his socks off which is the only way he can play the game which is why I was surprised he was the player brought off as it left us with Lines and Clarke in midfield neither of whom are exactly mobile when it comes to defending. Clarke should have been substituted because with the booking hanging over his head there was no way he was going to be able to “take one” for the team when they broke. Sadly, I am not sure if Sinclair is going to be able to make the step up but I very much hope he can. At the moment I see him as a bench player but maybe if we managed to get a quality central midfielder he could be the perfect foil. Not sure.
Brown – 6.5
Not a wing back as he does not have the pace and is far better with a player in front of him. The way the game went meant that he didn’t look very effective because he had to drop back most of the time.
Taylor – 7
Early indications that he will be as good at this level as he was in both the Conference and League 1. Took his goal very well, held defenders off, kept possession and always looked dangerous.
Gaffney – 5
Strangely off the pace of the game and his eventual departure was not surprising, only that he stayed on so long. He had a couple of good moments but I would really question if he is even as good as Matt Harrold. Only time will tell. To be fair he has not played at this standard before so there is no reason to write him off after one game and hopefully there are far better performances to come.
Harrison – 5.5
A couple of good turns and retention of the ball but in truth by the time he came on we had lost our earlier composure and were being run ragged at times.
Bodin – 5
Surprised he didn’t start somewhere in the team but was obviously the player who missed out due to DC playing the wingback formation. Came agonisingly close to equalising following a brilliant twisting run but does have defensive frailties.
Montano – 5
Did OK with a couple of runs but didn’t see enough of the ball to really influence the game. One excellent cross which should have been attacked and I think he has the ability to perform at this level but to enable him to do so we will need to have a much better central midfield.
Referee – 4
Awful. Missed far too much and seemed very biased in his decisions. The best example being when he booked Ollie Clarke for kicking the ball away but when their player did the same – nothing. He seemed far more willing to give free kicks against us and I am not sure that he got that many calls right.
Scunthorpe – 7
I thought we edged the first half and that we were more than capable of holding our lead however the second half was a different story and the quality of some of their players shone through. I think they will be there or thereabouts but I also think that we will find a lot of other teams have quality where we don’t.
Our season is very much going to depend on either DC finding some gems or Wael finding his wallet. Either or both needs to be soon or confidence will soon go. A goal scoring midfielder must be the number one priority but I feel we may need two central midfielders as that is the area we look lacking in quality.
The truth is that DC is still learning his trade and will learn from yesterday. I am not going to try to predict how this season will go, but I will say that the first half gave me optimism that we can progress in this division and that a lot of the players can make the step up but the second half made me feel that an injection of some cash in the team may be the only way to get the quality that can ensure not only our safety in this division but also a chance to be challenging at the right end of the table. Hats off to DC though for making the changes when he did and making it obvious that we were going for 3 points rather than trying to hold on to the point.
Team for Cardiff
Leadbitter Lockyer Hartley (Capt) Brown
Bodin Lines (or new signing) Easter (or new signing) Montano or Moore
Taylor Harrison (or a new signing)