Scunthorpe United v Stoke

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Football League Championship

Scunthorpe United2 (1)Stoke3 (1)

Hayes 31, Goodwin 85

Cresswell 26, Hayes 88 (og), Lawrence 90

Scunthorpe United :
Murphy, Byrne (Williams 73), Crosby, Butler, Youga, Taylor, Goodwin, Cork, Hurst, Paterson, Hayes
Subs not used:
Lillis, Baraclough, Forte, Morris

Stoke :
Simonsen, Zakuani (Wright 83), Cort, Shawcross, Dickinson, Lawrence, Eustace, Delap, Pugh, Cresswell, Fuller
Subs not used:
Hoult, Pericard, Parkin, Phillips


by Bob Dook at Glanford Park

I know a bloke who rates the referee after each match he attends and keeps record of their performances. Unfortunately for me, his ratings lack range and very poor or excellent performances are often not fully captured, as they merge into the data set, which is large after decades of his attendance at United games. I wonder whether he could have forced a 3 or has stuck with a more conservative 5 for his mark for the Stoke ref. I know another bloke, who is a mathematician in education in the Lincolnshire region, who has solid evidence of a direct relationship between referees' height and their performance. Apparently, excellent linear regressions with high correlation coefficients argue that the smaller the ref, the worse his performance. My feeling about refs, is that they are mostly rubbish. I have no data to support that assertion. The only thing I will say about our ref against Stoke, Mr L Probert is that I didn't see him as particularly tall.

Many Iron supporters were hoping for an improved performance against the Potters, but I'm more of a results man and was hoping for another point. I thought we had done really well against Leicester and Crystal Palace and was expecting another tight grafting display against the Potters. What developed was an open game, with plenty of end-to-end stuff and ultimately a defeat. Listening into the radio after leaving Scunthorpe following the game, I heard numerous Iron fans saying what a wonderful performance that was and commenting how much of an improvement they had seen. One supporter said that if we continue to play like that, we'll do very well. Even Nigel Adkins and Jim Goodwin said the same! Well, I reckon that if we play like we did against Stoke, we'll go straight back down. I found Nigel's comments about the fantastic football and great perfomance naive. What about the result, mate? More of them and we'll be soon in the darkness of a relegation battle.

The contest opened brightly and both teams seemed to be having a go for it, something which Stoke has a reputation for. Another big side, with giants at the back, they did look a threat going forward with the talented Fuller causing problems up front. Stoke took the lead with a disputed goal. The ball had come in from the right and a shot towards goal was apparently deflected into the net by Cresswell in an offside position. Much was made of the decision by United defenders, but the linesman and the referee were hardly going to change matters. For a start, they were both in poor positions to see any deflection. Indeed, from my line of sight which was similar to theirs, I could not make out what all the fuss was about. If I had been in my customary position with the great unwashed behind the goal, I would probably have felt some grievance, but using a free ticket donated by a SULSESC season ticket holder, I had taken a temporary place with the nobs in the main stand.

United's first half equaliser arrived from a close-in strike by Hayes, after Taylor had an effort on goal. It was a quick response and excellent strike from a player who wouldn't make my first team. Thankfully we had drawn level, as I was worried that we didn't have the quality to open up their backline. To be honest, I've been amazed we have scored any goals this term. Just shows how overated the Championship really is. The first half finished in a flourish and we went in all square, perfectly in sync with my pre-match prediction.

The second half was even more open than the first and left me spending much time with my head in my hands or berating the Stoke nobility seated nearby. It was unfair for the Iron to leave us on the edge on our seats like they did, with a display of "gunghomanship" that had a more than equal chance of ending in tears. Baron Sumner, who had graciously joined me for the second half passed numerous comments on this state of events.

Let's face it, why not take a point? Going all out to win it was fraught with risk against an opportunist Stoke side, one also pushing for a playoff place. The ref wasn't helping, missing what the crowd and United players believed was a penalty for handball. Onward we pressed with the midfield believing that they were the new vanguard. One of our Irishman, Jim Goodwin whose job it is to break up play and protect the back four found himself on the edge of the box and neatly placed his shot clear of the keeper and into the net. His immediate reaction was to run around cupping his hand to his ear, as if to ask for a louder cheer. He has been berated on one of the unofficial messageboards and maybe was enquiring as to what the posters thought of him now. Quite why fans feel it is necessary to take time to criticize our players so hatefully is quite frankly beyond me. There is a lot of hate on that messageboard though. Maybe it's a sign of the times or just a sign of society or both, but that's another story for another time.

Clifford Byrne had injured himself ten minutes before Goodwin's goal and with fifteen minutes left. Cliff is not the greatest distributor of the ball, with continuous punts in the air down the line to Cleveland; nor the greatest passer, one first half gift to the opposition nearly cost us a goal; nor the speediest runner, a gait akin to someone running in thick treacle with wellington boots on; but he is a solid tackler and maintains decent position even with a lack of speed. However, he seemed to lose his head a little in the second half and I saw his injury a result of over exuberence in what was a reckless tackle. Cliff left on a stretcher. What followed was a mistake for me and ultimtely cost us the game. Adkins replaced Byrne with Williams, switching Youga to right back. Youga had been the best defender on the pitch up until then and had complete control of the left hand side, enough to give Hurst the freedom to deliver a man-of-the-match performance. With this change, Stoke smelt blood and realised that Williams is not half the defender Youga is. With Goodwin's goal towards the end, we should have shut up shop and played out time. Unfortunately, it was not in the script and Stoke equalised from a retaken freekick which exposed Williams poor defending skills. Sunday park? Schoolboy? Yes, both could be used and more savoury ones too! A shot from the right came of Hayes's boot and squirmed past Murphy into the corner of the net to give the Potters their equalise on full time. The winner came from a left wing cross to the far post where Stoke's striker came in with a free header in extra time. Poor amateur defending for both late goals. Oh dear.

I left before the end to try and get a head start away from Glanford Park. The whistle went as I walked away from the ground. Disappointment overcame me and it was a miserable drive south to Heathrow. Why oh why did we allow that to happen. No, it was not a fantastic game, Nigel and callers to Radio Humberside. No, it was not much better than the previous last two home games. Oh yes, I enjoyed Leicester and Palace much more. I'm not really interested in performance, only results. We're a long way short of safety and as the season unfolds, suspensions and injuries will kick-in and other teams will have sussed us out. The second half of the season is going to be tough and we don't want to be chasing points then. Now is the time to be picking up points, not throwing them away. Naive, very naive, I'm afraid.