Many Scunthorpe fans felt hard done by last season. Manager Graham Alexander followed up his relative success in charge of Fleetwood Town – guiding them to League 2 promotion in 2013/14 and keeping them in League 1 – by taking the helm at Scunthorpe. He came so very close to doing the same with The Iron as they landed level on points with Barnsley and just 3 goals behind.
What felt harsh on them was that, with Barnsley ending the season away at runaway league winners Wigan, victory for Scunthorpe would have them in the play-offs should The Tykes have failed to beat The Latics. Sadly, as often happens in such dead-rubber games, Wigan played a weakened side and Barnsley cruised to a 4-1 away at the DW Stadium. No fair.
Every cloud though. Scunthorpe ended the season with the only six-game winning streak in the league and have carried that blistering from through the season to top the table going in to October. Top scorers in the country, a record helped by the staggering form of double-Player of the Month and, remarkably, free summer signing, winger Josh Morris.
In his entire league career the 25-year-old had 11 goals before 2016/17, starting life as a left-back with Blackburn Rovers and having loan spells with four Football League clubs as both a full-back and a winger. This term the lad can’t miss the net though and has twelve in twelve league games and another in the League cup, including his incredible free-kick – perhaps the EFL Goal of the Week – against Northampton. One telling statistic is that, in loan spells with Yeovil, Rotherham and Carlisle, he notched just 16 league games in two seasons. His fourth loan spell from Blackburn, though, came at Fleetwood Town under – you guessed it – Graham Alexander. 2 goals in a strong run of 14 games was enough for him to take Morris on another loan spell, where he made 45 league appearances and hit 8 goals.
Good figures for a young winger, but that success has been knocked flat out of Glanford Park by what the two are combining to do this season. Not only Morris though – there’s talent elsewhere. 10 more goalscorers in the league so far, including young Tom Hopper, who, at mostly 21 years old, managed 11 league goals last year. There’s also the skilful Kevin van Veen, on 6 goals so far and someone who’s hit the 20 mark in a season before in his native Holland. Scunthorpe are finding goals easy to come by and it’s fired them to the top of the division.
They’re difficult to beat too. Only Port Vale, currently 4th, have done it in the league. Jordan Clarke’s brace of yellow cards very much swung the impetus their way in an otherwise close game, and the jury is still out on whether or not his sending off was fair. Manager Alexander was sent to the stands for disagreeing, but Scunthorpe have recovered excellently from that setback.
You’d be forgiven for thinking, on the face of it, taking this form to a home game against newly promoted Northampton Town would be a surefire thing. Northampton are on a pretty strong run of their own though, 5th going into Gameweek 12, and really pressed Scunthorpe hard. 1-0 down to another Josh Morris goal and with Matt Taylor sent for an early bath, The Cobblers ended the game with more shots on goal and it paid off with a 75th minute equaliser from Jak McCourt.
Given the start they’ve made, Scunthorpe won’t be too disheartened by a draw but need to make the most of their exceptional home form to carry on this surge to the title.
What bodes well for the North Lincolnshire club is, in Morris, they have a quality goalscorer who they will hope can continue the form that’s seen him crowned both August and September Player of the Month in League One. They’re not that heavily dependent on him though – if you subtract the goals of every team’s top scorer, only Bury would have more goals that Scunthorpe. Incidentally, they have the highest number of goalscorers in the league.
Alexander has gone on to promotion in the past as well, and his extensive experience of nearly 1,000 English League games as a player and previous success with Fleetwood might be enough to push Scunthorpe over the line if they’re still in this position at the end of the season. I fully expect they’ll still be in the mix, but games like this – 1-0 against a newly-promoted, man-down team, need to be won to do the job.