FOOTBALL LEAGUE boff Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) takes a look at Good Friday's televised League One tussle between Oxford and Scunthorpe.
Oxford Utd v Scunthorpe | Good Friday 30th March 2018, 12:30 | Sky Sports
It’s not every day that a manager can justifiably say “we were the better team by a long way” after a 3-0 defeat, but that was the case for Oxford United’s Karl Robinson after his first game in charge away to Portsmouth on Sunday.
Between the 21st minute, when James Henry hit the crossbar at 1-0 and the 62nd, when Alex Mowatt hit the post from the spot before being sent off for a provoked slap, Oxford were the more prominent outfit.
There are positives to take for Robinson, but his side’s late capitulation with 10-men means survival is still not entirely assured.
Their next opponents are also changing manager.
Iron ditch Alexander
Play-off contenders Scunthorpe United have just dismissed Graham Alexander – that decision might seem strange given that they remain fifth in the table, but chairman Peter Swann and the board had their reasons.
Performances had dipped to a standard that would have been tough to accept for a side battling relegation, let alone one with a strong squad and a very competitive budget.
Alexander had played veteran holding midfielder Neal Bishop at right-back and Murray Wallace, who had been a model of consistency at centre-back, at left-back, even though more natural options Jordan Clarke and Conor Townsend had been available.
Ironically, that defensive approach didn’t at all help their back-line: in the Scot’s final 13 games in charge, the Lincolnshire outfit won just once and conceded 25 times, more than any other League One side in the same period.
Change could provoke improvement
Caretaker bosses Nick Daws and Andy Dawson, who are likely to take the helm over the Easter period, are no strangers to a defensive crisis.
When they last took charge in January 2016, Scunny were 16th and had just lost 5-0 to Blackpool – who, by the way, went down that year as lowest scorers. The Iron conceded just seven goals in the subsequent 11 games, so Daws and Dawson should take great credit for shutting the back door.
While the bare stats would point to Scunthorpe conceding, therefore, we reckon the change of leadership will catalyse a similar improvement in organization.
Approach may lead to slow start
Their opposite number, Robinson, is known as an attacking manager but that’s mainly because of his free-scoring, promotion winning MK Dons side of 2014-15: since then, 70 (or 57%) of the 123 games he has taken charge of have seen two or fewer goals.
The controversial Liverpudlian’s sides are often so keen to keep possession, that the ball will spend long periods of games over 40-yards from either goal. A Scunthorpe side looking to rediscover the defensive basics might, initially at least, be happy with that.
We’re therefore opposing goals: Marathon's 24/25 on Under 2.5 Goals might appeal – or for the more daring punter, 61/20 on Under 1.5 Goals can be found with the same bookmaker.
Our best bet though is Smarkets’ 23/10 on the score being 0-0 at half-time; considering Robinson’s last five games as a manager have seen a combined total of just two first half goals, we reckon that’s great value.
Oxford v Scunthorpe – 0-0 half-time score (23/10 Smarkets)