Eye on the opposition: In-form Scunthorpe are the Iron men at the back

Scunthorpe boss Graham Alexander
Scunthorpe boss Graham Alexander

Rovers host neighbours Scunthorpe United for the third time in less than three months on Sunday, this time in the FA Cup. We spoke to the Scunthorpe Telegraph’s Iron writer Paul Crute for the lowdown on the side from up the M180.

Q: How do you think Iron fans view this game? Do you think having played them twice already this season has diminished it?

PC: Doncaster are Scunthorpe’s closest rivals that they will face this season and always want to come out with bragging rights. I don’t think playing them twice will have diminished it.

Although you do always like variety, the opportunity to beat their local rivals to secure a place in the third round and the possibility of a big tie is motivation enough for either side. It also adds a bit extra to the second round tie, which always seems to get overlooked slightly.

Q: How seriously will Scunthorpe be taking the FA Cup?

PC: I think they will be taking it seriously. Graham Alexander wants to win every game so will be taking it seriously and will play a strong side.

After falling at the first hurdle last season, he will look to have a cup run alongside the league form.

Q: After finishing third last season, what are the expectations for Scunthorpe this term?

PC: The expectations are play-offs minimum and Scunthorpe are certainly heading in the right direction. After leading the league for so long and coming so close to automatic promotion, Alexander and others inside the club want improvement which would mean top two. However, no-one will be counting their chickens just yet as last season they went on a nine-game winless run which ultimately cost them promotion.

Q: How have Scunthorpe started the season and how is the form heading into Saturday?

PC: In terms of recent form it is nothing short of fantastic. They have won their last six league games, including victories over Bradford and Charlton and are unbeaten in 10 in all competitions.

They started the season slowly and after getting over their recent sticky patch they have just got better and better, adding goals to what was already a strong defence.

Q: How do Iron set up?

PC: Alexander has always prided himself on a strong defence and that has proved this season keeping 12 clean sheets in all competitions, including five in the last six.

Occasionally this can be at the expense of the attack but recently Scunthorpe have added goals to their games. The only slight worry at the moment is that the goals are coming from the midfielders and defenders with a striker not having scored since beating Oldham on October 28.

Q: Who are the danger men?

PC: Hakeeb Adelakun and Duane Holmes on either flank have at times been unplayable and have carried most of the attacking threat recently. To add to this Josh Morris has just returned from injury and scored two fantastic goals at the weekend. He is capable of creating something out of nothing.

Funso Ojo has been a revelation in the centre of midfield, rarely losing possession. Matt Gilks has been impressive in goal behind a very solid back four.

Q: Your prediction for the game?

PC: With it being a local derby and with a lot at stake I don’t think there will be much to pick between the sides despite their contrasting league positions. But with Scunthorpe’s solidity in defence and the ability to nick a goal here and there I think it will be a 2-0 win to the Iron.