Port Vale will be looking to climb back into the play-off places when they face Scunthorpe at Vale Park this weekend. But what sort of challenge do the Vale face?
For the inside track on the opposition we are grateful to Charlie Wilson of the Scunthorpe Telegraph and ScunthorpeLive….
Vale fans might be surprised Scunthorpe aren’t higher in the table, especially after how well they played in their 2-1 win over Vale in November. What’s been the story of the season so far?
“It’s difficult to say what the story of the season has been for Scunthorpe United so far. But if you asked me to describe it in one word, it would be chaotic.
“After bringing in a proven manager at this level in Paul Hurst, Iron fans knew it would take a year for him to stamp his authority into the team. The squad was still filled with players from the previous season – which was arguably the worst season in their last 20 years – and he needed a few transfer windows to move certain players out and bring in his mould of player.
“Hurst made several quality signings who improved the team, but Scunthorpe continued to make the same mistakes defensively, shooting themselves in the foot. Hurst had just begun to get it right, but he was sacked for “non-footballing reasons”.
“Now, in a season that Scunthorpe should have been challenging for promotion, they find themselves playing for nothing. Simply put, it has been a lost season.”
Vale looked at Jordan Gabriel in January before signing Mitch Clark on loan. How has he done on loan from Nottingham Forest?
“Jordan Gabriel has been an absolute revelation. He’s impressed in all of his performances, offering a constant attacking threat down the right whilst staying disciplined and solid defensively. I have little doubt that he’ll go on to be a top player for Nottingham Forest, he looks like he’s ready to play at a higher level already.”
How does Russ Wilcox like his team to play?
“Russ likes his teams to be compact and disciplined. He’s a defensive-minded manager who adjusts each gameplan on their opposition. It wouldn’t surprise me if he played three, four or five players at the back. He’s still trying to find his strongest 11 at this point, although you will likely see a similar team from the Iron’s last game against Forest Green.”
Who are the dangermen the Vale will have to look out for?
“Three players come to mind immediately and all of them should be playing at a higher level – Abo Eisa, John McAtee and Kevin van Veen.
“Eisa is a tricky winger who can beat you with his quick feet and speed. John McAtee is a 20-year-old who is attracting interest from Newcastle United, although only featuring in 12 games so far this season – he’s been that impressive.
“I think the league knows all about Kevin van Veen at this point. He’s one of the best finishers you’ll find at this level and is capable of moments of magic. But he’s a confidence player. When he lets his head drop, his performance levels usually fall too. Even still, if you leave Scunthorpe’s number 10 with too much time on the ball, he will make you pay.”
Can you give us your best guess at the team and formation?
“This will be tough. I’d say the Iron will play a 4-4-1-1. Lawlor, Gabriel, Butler, Bedeau, Butroid, Gilliead, Songo’o, Perch, Eisa, McAtee, Van Veen.”
“Although it wouldn’t surprise me if he goes five at the back, bringing in Rory McArdle for Yann Songo’o, playing just one man in central midfield.”