Scunthorpe v Oldham: the masters of defending

sheridanA month ago, one would have had to be mad to predict that this fixture would be between two teams at the top of the League One form table. Both sides are in the middle of their best run this season, with Oldham unbeaten in five and Scunthorpe having won four of their last five.

Scunthorpe won 2-0 at Millwall recently and that victory was well-deserved, after a strong defensive display. The Iron crowded the central areas and battled hard for the result. Midfielders Neal Bishop and Stephen Dawson, in particular, did not stop running. The latter became something of a pantomime villain for the home fans, yet his aggressive mentality was exactly what the team needed in a tough away game.

The one downside of this Scunthorpe team is that they do not show much pace or quality in possession. At the Den, they created relatively little until the latter stages, when Millwall threw men forward. They are not the most eye-catching team and, if you took out Paddy Madden, one might wonder where the goals would come from. However, what they lack in unique quality, they make up for in strength and commitment.

One might say the same thing about Oldham, who have conceded just four goals in their first seven games under John Sheridan. The former Newport boss is not the most popular manager in the Football League, but he does get results.

One of his first moves has been to bring in forwards Aaron Holloway and Curtis Main. Neither of those players have made a massive impact from a goalscoring point of view, indeed, Scunthorpe’s Paddy Madden is likely to score more goals than both of them combined between now and May. However, in their first few games, they have worked hard and given the team a presence up top. When you are in a relegation battle, it is important to have every player doing the right things out of possession and Sheridan has developed that culture at Oldham.

After Tuesday’s victory at Peterborough, the former Plymouth boss was full of praise for Cameron Dummigan, who opened the scoring with a sweet strike. A strong second half display helped the Latics to a 2-1 win at London Road, which meant the team has now won three games out of seven under Sheridan. When one considers that Darren Kelly and David Dunn took 24 games between them to win the same number of matches, it is clear to see that the new manager has got the best out of his players.

Scunthorpe United have made Nick Daws their manager permanantly, in a contract until the end of the season. 45-year-old Daws, along with assistant Andy Dawson, have had success in their first five games by re-organizing the team – or shutting the back daw. Sheridan has done a similar job at Oldham and for that reason we can expect a tight game. A draw seems the most likely outcome.