In recent years, it’s rare us U’s fans are afforded the luxury of excitement. By this point in the season, flattering early fixtures have already lost their misleading shine, and the squad’s pitfalls are starting to appear in menacing numbers. This year, so far, seems different.
We head to Lincolnshire sitting 2nd in the league, behind a Morecambe team on an astonishing -1 goal difference after the 5-0 hammering we gave them a few weeks back. After taking four points from a run of three tricky fixtures in Tranmere, Exeter, and Newport, United will be brimming with confidence and relishing the prospect of a Scunthorpe team with that same points total so far this whole season. They’re languishing in 20th, and we expect it could turn into a long season for them.
Mark Bonner has the sort of selection headache every club wants: a bench of real quality, with numerous players ready and raring to make an impact. We’ve strengthened incredibly well in recent weeks, and we’re still yet to see Idris El Mizouni, the man whose glorious free-kick opened the scoring in this fixture last year, really get a chance to make his impact felt. There’ll be a lot of similar excitement around Hiram Boateng too, who looked assured in his debut off the bench last week. Elsewhere, Joe Ironside will feel hard done by to be left out of the team given he hadn’t done much wrong in his first few starts, but Bonner’s clever tactical switch was the real difference against Newport last week. If we play at that same standard, we should be far too much for The Iron.
Expected U’s line-up: Mitov; Knoyle, Taylor, Darling, Iredale; Hannant, Digby, May, Dunk; Hoolahan; Mullin
Unchanged, and rightly so. Bonner brought in Darling and Iredale to the back line last week, both of which had near faultless games. Darling saw an opener disallowed as well as completing a fairly flawless defensive performance, and Iredale’s strong tackling and ambitious attacking support down the left was brilliant to see on his full debut.
In the midfield, Luke Hannant on the right was able to give Knoyle a bit more defensive support than Wes could in that same role, and it allowed the magician to play a free role behind Mullin. Wes pulled the strings, and created both goals last time out, for the man who can’t stop scoring. Don’t fix what ain’t broke.
Who’s their player to watch? Ryan Loft
With Kevin van Veen out with a knee injury, Scunny are relying on their big man up top to deliver the goods. 23 years old and 6-foot-3, Loft signed for Scunthorpe this summer without making an appearance for Leicester City. Last season, on loan at Carlisle, he managed 4 in 26 appearances, and he’s continued at the same rate this season, opening his account on the first game of the season where they held Newport to a draw. Could be one to watch from set plays.
Who’s in the dugout? Paul Hurst
Hurst is a good manager. Very good, you could venture. He’s the sort of manager that I would say most people would have taken at the Abbey after Calderwood left in February. He’s the man responsible for returning Grimsby to the Football League, and after guiding Shrewsbury to the League 1 play-offs two years later and then, contrastingly, Ipswich to just 1 win in 15 games, he’s back in Lincolnshire looking to reignite a career that promised so much a few seasons ago. Besides a win rate of just 31% in his time at Scunny so far, he’s a man that knows what he’s doing.
What’s their recent form like? Last 5: Won 1, Drawn 1, Lost 3; Scored 3, Conceded 8
Any ex-United players? From what we can tell, not a single one. No split loyalties here.
Last time out: Scunthorpe United 0-2 Cambridge United (Idris El Mizouni, Paul Mullin), 11 February 2020.
Two players on loan last season that Bonner has brought back in this year. Mullin scored a tap-in on his first start, a sign of things to come, but before that Idris curled a sumptuous free-kick directly into the top bins to open the scoring. Another one of them this weekend, please.
From the archives: Cambridge United 5-3 Scunthorpe United, 28th October 1989.
The first goal is especially worth a watch…