19 Unbeaten – but is it good enough??

Deep in thought: Can Russ get the Iron back to winning ways?

So, the club record of 19 games unbeaten has been equalled. I’d just like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone at the club for such an achievement! Avoid defeat against Southend on Tuesday night and the record is broken! Wow.

Ok, that’s the praise out of the way. An unbeaten run is all well and good, but for weeks now it has become abundantly clear that this millstone hanging around everyone’s neck is having an adverse effect on the way we play.

Not only the way we play – but the way the opposition play. Only Pompey failed to read the script. It’s simple: Set up with two solid banks, push your full-backs up when in possession of the ball – take something from Glanford Park. Simples.

Wimbledon, Fleetwood, Bristol Rovers, Chesterfield, and now Northampton have achieved it, and nearly all of those teams have managed to play a decent possession game against us.

When will Russ learn? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a Russ bash – he’s clearly a fabulous man-manager and has each and every one of his players running through brick walls for him, and that’s great to see. But the naivety in certain situations is glaringly obvious and his lack of managerial experience, in my opinion, is proving a major stumbling block in this talented bunch of players being able to unlock bolted doors.

Listening to Russ following the Northampton game, he sounded a man under pressure, which I guess many will find incomprehensible given the position the club find themselves in the league. Radio Humberside’s Matt Dean asked him some perfectly honest questions that many fans would love to know the answer to, but Russ reacted hastily and clearly surprised by the questions directed at him, although one was a little close to the bone.

Russ began the interview by conveying his anger at the performance and how he wasn’t interested in the club-record-equalling unbeaten run. He ended the interview by stating that the players did everything that was asked of them and how proud he was of the unbeaten run…

Let’s get to the bottom of some of his comments. Many of his retorts smacked of Laws. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one muttering that to myself in my car during the drive home. “This is the business end of the season and if you want to see the team passing the ball out from the back, getting it out wide and playing pretty football – it isn’t going to happen,” said Laws – I mean Russ.

Northampton,  fighting for their lives in the bottom two, managed to achieve just that. They did play it out from the back. They did play pretty football. They did get it out wide. Even with ten men! Is it completely inconceivable for Iron fans to expect their team – riding high at the top of the table – to be treated to some entertaining football?

“I wanted to get the ball forward quickly and get it out wide,” Laws said – damn it, I mean Russ.

Too much time together? Many of Russ' decisions are eerily similar to those of former manager Laws.

Too much time together? Many of Russ’ decisions are eerily similar to those of former manager Laws.

Sounds like a real scientific approach, that! If Deon was fit, I can see it, but with the current personnel that’s just not going to work.

Much has been said over the last couple of months regarding our inability to open up defences and I guess we’re all great managers. But you can clearly see from the first five minutes of a game at Glanford Park how it’s going to pan out.

Are the team working hard enough in training to address the issues? Is it simply a case of getting the ball forward quickly, as he states, hopefully winning the ball high up the field and going from there? Because that’s sure what it looks like. Shouldn’t we be working more on off-the-ball movement? Yesterday the players were static. Where are the options to the man in possession?

I feel sorry for the strikers. They have literally nothing. People have been grumbling about Connor Jennings being given a chance here – but what would be the point in that? Jennings is a poacher, he wouldn’t have a sniff!

Sam Winnall’s achievements have been incredible this season, but he still looks a frustrated man in every game and you only have to look at the whereabouts of himself and Paddy during the match to feel their despondency.

Chances created appear to be circumstantial and not as a direct result of great creative play. I’m trying hard not to be too critical, but when I look around at the masses of empty seats at Glanford Park, my own frustrations boil over.

Are eight draws and three wins from eleven games whilst struggling to create any real openings reasons to be upbeat? It’s a difficult situation. We are extremely hard to beat, and that alone is a very good thing, but being extremely hard to beat, in-turn, appears to be a major contributory factor in us finding it hard to beat teams.

Deep in thought: Can Russ get the Iron back to winning ways?

Deep in thought: Can Russ get the Iron back to winning ways?

Marcus Williams – a left-back by trade but pushed into a more advanced role, to me, appears to be a pertinent indicator to the problem. He often finds himself naturally pulled back into a deeper role – thus negating any attacking threat. At times he looks brilliant,  Newport away being a case in point, but at Glanford Park he offers extremely little going forward.

Why does Ribeiro struggle to keep his place? A natural right-back at the very top of his game under Russ, it has to be said, yet it seems the manager will do anything he can to keep Nolan in the team. Nolan’s a decent player, don’t get me wrong, but I’m sure the vast majority of Iron fans would rather see Ribeiro starting ahead of him.

Yesterday was, in truth, a mess. The starting line-up was wrong. The set-up was wrong. The substitutions and the timing of them were wrong, and I believe that this is one of those few occasions where we cannot be accused of being wise after the event. It was staring EVERYONE in the face – except the man that mattered, obviously.

The good thing is, we’re still in a fabulous position. It’s not like we’ve fallen away and it’s all gone belly-up in a great puff of smoke – although, our rivals’ inability to also fail to take advantage of our masses of dropped points are to thank for that. Thanks!

It would be a voluminous shame should we now fail to grasp the opportunity presented to us and fail to drag ourselves out of this league. Whether we can keep drawing games and continue to just be hard to beat to achieve our goals, I’m unsure; it’s all looking a little tight up there now! Thankfully, no-one appears to want to put together a run of wins and coast to promotion. Thankfully, that very opportunity is still there if we want it - IF we want it!



Mark Chapman




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2 Responses to “19 Unbeaten – but is it good enough??”

  1. Iron Awe says:

    Excellent article. The clappers will no doubt disagree with you but the football on show has been painful at best. The unbeaten run is all they care about, I’d rather we lost a couple by really going for it because we would have won more.

    Hope its better versus Southend!

  2. Mark Chapman says:

    Thanks for the comment Iron Awe.

    Like I say in the article, it’s hard to be too critical when we’re 19 matches unbeaten, but if we just opened up a little more and got men forward we have the ability to murder teams. We beat Pompey 5-1 and didn’t even play that well, it’s just they left themselves wide open and we capitalised.

    Look at Peterborough in League One, I think they’ve lost 14 matches this season compared to our 4 and they only have eight points fewer than us! Incredible. Fleetwood have lost 8 more games than us this season and are only 6 points below us!

    This league could have very easily been wrapped up by now!

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