Preview: Scunthorpe United

We’ve reached the final game of a season where so much has happened but strangely has felt like it never really got going. From the waiting for quality signings that never came in August, the wait for a replacement for Tony Mowbray, the wait for Russell Slade’s reign to take-off, the wait for Russell Slade to be shown the door, the wait for Wembley, to now, the wait for the start of next season.

In a sense, it will be a relief when it’s all over and Mark Robins can get on with the task of getting us out of League Two. However, given the constant flow of bad news around the club over the past few weeks, there’s the strong feeling that relegation is less an opportunity to rebuild the club and more the opening of another dark chapter in our history. As fans, we can only hope that Mark Robins is the right man to trust at such an important juncture for this football club.

Possible Line-Up

As for this final game of the season, it’s probably the case that Robins has already decided who he wants to keep and who he’s planning to move on. In fact, it would be a tad concerning where he to be swung by one good or bad performance from players in this game. While someone like Vladimir Gadzhev impressed last week, one decent showing in a pressure-free game shouldn’t be considered representative of a player’s level of performance over the course of a long and hard season.

As has been the case since the Checkatrade Trophy final, this is likely to be a team selected on a basis of who is fit rather than managerial preference. Ideally, Robins would not be picking loan players or those whose contracts he will not renew, however, players like Kevin Foley, Marcus Tudgay and Farrend Rawson may have to be used in order to get 11 players on the pitch.

Last Time We Met

Despite losing to Scunthorpe at the Ricoh Arena back in November, the performance looked to have further demonstrated Mark Venus’ ability to pull us further away from danger after a run of four wins in six games. In a fairly close game where both sides had about us much attacking threat as each other, it was Scunthorpe’s star man Josh Morris who ghosted in at the near-post to secure victory for the then-league leaders.

How Are They Doing?

 

In a manner familiar to Sky Blues fans, Scunthorpe have struggled over the second half of the season after starting it in blistering form. Unfamiliar though is that Scunthorpe have managed to reverse that slump over recent weeks, winning their past four games to salvage a play-off spot.

 

While it may have been the case that Scunthorpe over-performed in the first half of the campaign – with Josh Morris scoring some absurd goals at a ridiculous rate – not to have held onto a top six spot would have been criminal given the strength of the starting XI. Manager Graham Alexander seemed to struggle with the pressure of the slump, making unnecessary signings and too many changes to the side, but has regained his composure in recent weeks to scrape out a few wins and restore confidence.

Winger Josh Morris remains the key player for this Scunthorpe side, despite a drop-off in his rate of goalscoring. His delivery from set-pieces and open play have been a regular source of goals over the second half of the campaign, demonstrating Scunthorpe’s meticulous organisation and physicality. His fellow impressive wide-man from the first half of the season, Duane Holmes, however, has struggled to get into the side over the past few months.

Possible Line-Up

Scunthorpe have an incredibly solid spine to the team, largely thanks to Mark Robins’ underwhelming spell at the club. The dominant centre-back Murray Wallace and the energetic midfield tyro Stephen Dawson were both brought to the club by Robins and have probably been the two other key players for Scunthorpe behind Josh Morris. Wallace’s defensive partner, David Mirfin, adds further experience and physicality to the back-line, while Neal Bishop in midfield offers something similar in the centre of the park.

While the changes Graham Alexander made over the second half of the season seemed to disrupt the balance of the side, the loan signings of Ivan Toney in attack and Matt Crooks in midfield have played a large part in this recent run of good form. Toney’s goalscoring form has come at a crucial time where other strikers have struggled for goals. Crooks has also scored some crucial goals, but also offers an important element of control and presence in midfield – although he is now injured of the rest of the season.

Prediction

It’s been an encouraging run recently, but the end-of-season feel to many of the games we’ve played during that run has to be considered an important factor. While Scunthorpe have ensured themselves a top six spot already, so have nothing to win or lose in this game, they’ll be keen to avoid a potentially demoralising defeat to an already-relegated side as they look to head into the play-offs with momentum.

With that in mind, I can see this being a 3-0 loss.

Half-Way Review: The Other 23 – The Promotion Challengers

Top Scorer: Billy Sharp (16) Most Assists: John Fleck & Mark Duffy (6)

Top Scorer: Billy Sharp (16)
Most Assists: John Fleck & Mark Duffy (6)

Sheffield United (1st Place)

Anyone with even a passing interest in League One knows the drill, Sheffield United start the season as promotion favourites and spend the next 46 games finding new ways to fall short despite having the biggest budget and crowds in the division. After a poor first few games, it looked like Chris Wilder’s Blades were going to be like Nigel Adkins’, Nigel Clough’s and Danny Wilson’s Blades in failing to discover that gritty, winning mentality that was once the club’s hallmark. However, three crucial changes to the side towards the end of August now sees this Sheffield United side looking ready to deliver on their perennial promise of a return to the Championship.

The signings of goalkeeper Simon Moore, centre-back Ethan Ebanks-Landell and a switch to a 3-4-1-2 formation have seen Sheffield United not just shoot up the league but absolutely dominate their opponents in almost every game they’ve played since the start of September. If there has been one criticism of the Blades this season, it’s that they’ve perhaps been overly reliant on Billy Sharp’s form in front of goal, with summer signings Leon Clarke and Caolan Lavery struggling to find form. Nonetheless, they are top of the division and are in a position to further strengthen their squads. The title favourites by some distance.

Top Scorer: Zach Clough (8) Most Assists: Jay Spearing (3)

Top Scorer: Zach Clough (8)
Most Assists: Jay Spearing (3)

Bolton Wanderers (2nd Place)

The appointment of Phil Parkinson as manager in the summer has proven to be just what Bolton needed to avoid a difficult first season in the third-tier. Not famed for playing a particularly progressive style of football, Phil Parkinson’s no-nonsense football has seen Bolton overpower many opponents with brute force from what is a squad mostly made up of experienced and proven Championship-level performers, with Zach Clough and the now-departed Sammy Ameobi providing a small dashing of flair in the final third.

Although Bolton currently occupy a top-two position and have probably the division’s strongest squad, they haven’t been entirely convincing and have produced some pretty poor showings on occasion this season. It feels like Bolton under Parkinson will rely upon taking fewer risks than anyone else and hope that no-one below them find form to secure promotion. In this division this season, it could well be enough.

Top Scorer: Josh Morris (15) Most Assists: Josh Morris (10)

Top Scorer: Josh Morris (15)
Most Assists: Josh Morris (10)

Scunthorpe United (3rd Place)

Having finished last season in excellent form, it wasn’t a massive surprise that Scunthorpe United were this season’s pace-setters. However, the main surprise with Scunthorpe this season is that they’ve much of their success has not been based around the goalscoring exploits of Paddy Madden, who’s played a relatively cameo role in the Iron’s impressive first half of the campaign. Instead, manager Graham Alexander has gotten the best out of forwards Tom Hopper and Kevin van Veen, who were already on the books, while his summer additions of Duane Holmes and particularly Josh Morris have added another dimension to what was already a strong squad.

Scunthorpe have a strong spine in central midfield and defence and have based much of their success this season on working hard and capitalising on mistakes or Josh Morris producing a moment of magic. However, they’ve won just once in their past six games and it’s looking like Graham Alexander is going to have to change things up a little to set them back on their way. The next month is going to be crucial for the Iron in restoring that lost momentum.

Preview: Scunthorpe United

An amazing turnaround against Wycombe on Wednesday night has put a different complexion on what looked to be two rather underwhelming performances in the cup. Not only should the turnaround give us a sense of impetus heading into our toughest league fixture of the season but we look to have a decent level of strength in depth, which is never a bad thing.

This Scunthorpe game though is going to test just how much we can read into the Wycombe turnaround, our impressive home form and the modest improvements made since Tony Mowbray’s departure. The fixture list has been fairly kind to us this season, especially at home where we’ve played three of the current bottom four and just one of the current top six, which is why it still doesn’t quite feel like we’ve justified looking towards the play-offs rather than the relegation zone. Getting something out of this game – points or a really good performance – will provide that validation we’ve been missing thus far.

Possible Line-Up

With only the injuries of Chris Stokes, Chris McCann and Kwame Thomas to contend with, Mark Venus is free to pick what he feels is his strongest side for this game. The performances of Ryan Haynes, Jodi Jones and Jack McBean provide the temptation to deviate away from a formation and team selection that led to our recent improvement, Venus has to decide whether those players have provided a convincing enough case to justify potentially disruptive changes to the side.

Ryan Haynes is probably least likely out of the three to come in, simply because the defence appears to have gelled over the past five or six league games. A lot of our good attacking play against Wycombe involved Jack McBean’s hold-up play, but with Rose back in a three-man midfield, those qualities may not be as important as pace to hit Scunthorpe on the counter. Jodi Jones has a much better shot given that Venus doesn’t seem to have found the best combination in the front three, but could struggle against a physical Scunthorpe defence.

Last Time We Met

Scunthorpe inflicted upon us a 2-1 defeat that was our third in a row and which heralded our collapse from promotion contenders to mid-table also-rans last season. Scunthorpe put in a well-disciplined away performance, blocking the centre of the pitch, countering with intent and taking their chances to hold us at arm’s length for most of the contest. A late Adam Armstrong penalty wasn’t enough to reverse the tide and just days later James Maddison was sold to Norwich to make the unravelling even worse. Also, Stephen Hunt played for us that day.

How Are They Doing?

Scunthorpe showed against us in January that they had a really solid base to build on and since Graham Alexander’s appointment as manager in March, they’ve managed to convert that solid base into a ruthlessly efficient team-unit. While former manager Mark Robins deserves a modicum of credit for putting most of this squad together, Alexander has done incredibly well at making sense of the squad he inherited and making a few additions of his own to make them even better.

Despite being runaway league leaders for much of the campaign, Scunthorpe aren’t a particularly flash side but are physically-imposing, incredibly hard-working and lethal in the final-third. They’ve scored a lot from set-pieces and on the counter, but have also demonstrated the ability to grind teams down through efficient spells of possession too. Even though last season’s top-scorer Paddy Madden is likely not to feature in this game, one of the main attributes of this Scunthorpe side has been how many goals so many different players have scored for them.

Left-winger Josh Morris is the club and the division’s current top-scorer, with most of his goals being incredibly well-hit set-pieces and long-range efforts – this was a player Bradford let go for free this summer. Powerful Dutch striker Kevin van Veen never really lived up to the hype under Mark Robins but has returned from a loan in his native country as a key focal point in attack, scoring some beautiful goals of his own but also providing a physical presence up-front and creating chances for his team-mates. Former Leicester youngster Tom Hopper has also chipped in with his fair share of the goals this season and is another typically hard-working player on Scunthorpe’s books.

Possible Line-Up

The energy from midfield provided by captain Stephen Dawson and the young American winger Duane Holmes has allowed Scunthorpe to over-run teams at times. Holmes looked a big prospect at Huddersfield before struggling to nail down a starting place but has offered Scunthorpe a real outlet on the counter, as well as the ability to track-back and protect his full-back. Dawson, with the burly Neal Bishop alongside him, is part of that solid spine of the team that Graham Alexander inherited at Glanford Park.

The central defensive duo of David Mirfin and Murray Wallace is one of the most solid partnerships in the entire Football League. The veteran Mirfin is a classic physically-imposing brute who’s enjoyed a renaissance at the club under Graham Alexander when Mark Robins had been keen to let him go. Wallace is a more mobile defender who can also bring the ball out from the back but is first and foremost an incredibly competent defender. Alexander is spoilt for choice at full-back with Jordan Clarke and Scott Wiseman at right-back and Conor Townsend and Harry Toffolo at left-back all capable of walking into any other League One back four.

Prediction

Overall, I’m just not convinced that this recent upturn in form is enough to go out and beat the league leaders. We seem to have developed a habit of starting games lackadaisically and against a team with quality in the final third and a rock-solid defence, we would struggle to get anything out of this game if we fall behind.

I’ve got a feeling this will be the game that shows just how far away we are from being a genuinely good side again. Scunthorpe to win 3-1.

Preview: Scunthorpe United

Two limp defeats in the wake of an already poor run puts pressure on the team not only to win this upcoming game against Scunthorpe but to follow that up with a winning streak. We know this side is more than good enough to be leading the pack, to be in danger of falling entirely out of the race for promotion is more than a little embarrassing.

There are issues but there is more than enough time left to sort things out and give this season the finish it deserves. We could do with maybe one or two signings, some tactical tweaks and Mowbray settling on his best team, but above all, it’s about desire and intensity if we are to return to the swagger with which we started the season with.

I do go into our issues and possible solution in more detail here, so onto the more specific matter of beating Scunthorpe United. With no new signings looking like arriving in time for this game and the possibility of another Murphy and Armstrong-less affair, Tony Mowbray’s going to have to work with what he’s got.

Maybe, Might Be, Could Be, Possible Line-Up

Maybe, Might Be, Could Be, Possible Line-Up (To Be Taken With A Pinch Of Salt)

In defence, that means that an unchanged back four is almost dead certain given that Aaron Phillips looks set to be on the naughty step for quite a while. It may not necessarily be the worst thing in the world despite the makeshift nature of it, it might be better to settle on a four at the moment to give them time to learn from their mistakes rather than cause more disruptions and tinkering with the side again.

With John Fleck still suspended, Bigi is going to have to put in a much better performance but could do with some help from Vincelot in aiding his efforts to get the ball moving from the back. Further forward, only Tony Mowbray knows who’s going to line up in those front positions? Surely James Maddison has to start but right now the only surprise would be an unsurprising team selection, which raises an interesting paradox if you think about it.

Last Time We Met

For the second season running we gave a Scunthorpe manager’s ailing tenure a shot on the arm with an unexpectedly abject performance. Mark Robins’ side, packed with almost as many ex-Sky Blues as Bury, did a number on us. Pressing us high up the pitch, restricting us to just three shots (all off target), somehow we escaped Glanford Park with just a 1-0 defeat. John Fleck made an avoidable error in front of his own goal, not that he’s prone to doing that sort of thing, and Paddy Madden scored a typical poacher’s finish.

How Are They Doing?

Once again Mark Robins proved himself to be a manager with a limited shelf-life at a football club. When he arrived last season he made some sensible decisions, signed some good loan players and had Scunthorpe flying for a bit. Yet once the initial surge wore off, Scunthorpe became a fairly dull, obdurate League One side, despite the club’s chairman backing Robins fairly strongly in the transfer market.

A 5-0 defeat to Blackpool two weeks ago confirmed at last to Scunthorpe’s chairman Peter Swann that things weren’t ever going to improve under Robins. Under caretaker charge last week, Scunthorpe beat Colchester 3-0, which is pretty impressive although three goals against Colchester’s leaky defence is like half a goal against most other League One sides.

Scunthorpe should be feeling pretty confident about exploiting our tetchiness regardless though considering the talented squad that Robins assembled. The most recognisable name in that squad (aside from our ex-players) is Paddy Madden who is an energetic striker and an excellent finisher who guarantees goals at this level. Robins spent much of his reign trying to convert him into winger.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

In further, ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’ news, Gary McSheffrey has returned from injury in time to come into contention for this game. Jordan Clarke is out of favour at the moment and is unlikely to start in this game. They do also have ex-loanee Luke Willliams who didn’t have the best of times with us but looked close to being a pretty good player and could be looking to make a point here.

Murray Wallace in defence is a commanding presence at the back who played a big role in cutting off our entire attacking threat in the last meeting between these two sides. The competitive Stephen Dawson and Neal Bishop in midfield give Scunthorpe a very solid look to them down the middle which will make them especially awkward to play against. Despite Scunthorpe’s lowly position, there is more than enough about them for them to cause us real problems.

Prediction

Talk of instantly returning to our old swagger and swatting away one of the division’s also-rans is well wide of the mark. Scunthorpe have everything about them to set up just like Burton did, shut off the middle of the pitch and wait for us to make errors at the back. Or they could be more proactive and press us to turn an anxious home crowd against their team. This isn’t going to be good viewing, especially if either or both of Armstrong and Murphy remain unavailable for selection.

You would expect some reaction here and I think talk of a collapse is both premature and melodramatic. I really have no idea what kind of performance we are going to produce here, we could return to that old trend under Mowbray of just getting a result when the pressure is starting to build or this could set the tone for the rest of the season.

So I’m going to pick a scoreline out of thin air here (aside from the usual scientific approach I take with these previews) and call this a 2-1 win for the Sky Blues because why not?

Preview: Scunthorpe United

The win over Burton last Sunday providing more optimism for the season ahead for me than our goal-crazy three-game winning streak to start the season with. In each of those games, we won after taking the lead and were playing with a lot of confidence. Against Burton, we fell behind and there was clearly less confidence to our approach than the zippy fast-paced football we had been playing during our wonderful start.

As encouraging as it was to see this team come through a difficult test and win, there have to be concerns over the manner of our performance, particularly in defence. We look very exposed at the back and it isn’t just because of Lee Burge’s flaps, Reda Johnson’s tactical indiscipline or our full-backs being a bit crappy. It’s a whole team thing and aside from Romain Vincelot and possibly Jim O’Brien, the player playing in front of our defence are not all too concerned about offering protection.

My feeling after the recent Walsall defeat was that the best teams in this division are going to be able to exploit the opportunities we offer teams to create chances. What the win over Burton suggested to me though was that against teams with less of a cutting edge, our attacking players offer enough quality going forwards to outweigh their lack of contribution to defence. Although it has to be said that against Burton, our attacking play left plenty of room for improvement.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Heading into this Scunthorpe away game, Tony Mowbray has added the exciting Liverpool prospect Ryan Kent to the squad as James Maddison’s nominal replacement. At the start of the summer we only had Jim O’Brien, Marcus Tudgay and George Thomas as our attacking options, now we have a genuine surfeit to pick from and more than one player who could make a big impact on the game will miss out.

Considering that this is likely to be Ryan Kent’s first senior competitive game, I would be cautious in throwing him in straight away. I think we’re also highly unlikely to see Marc-Antoine Fortuné start too given the current balance of things. The biggest selection issue is who to drop in favour of the returning Adam Armstrong. Although it feels more natural to drop one striker for another, Armstrong was more involved in the Southend game after Tudgay came on and I would be tempted to give that partnership another look.

Last Time We Met

It was a night that confirmed that Steven Pressley was beyond the point of no return in his tenure, not because of the performance or result against an in-form Scunthorpe but the clear atmosphere of hostility towards Pressley from the home fans. The absolute nadir coming when the team completed a 15-pass move from back-to-front whilst being heckled throughout, only to then fashion a decent opening which few gave them credit for.

Of note that night too was the return to the Ricoh Arena of Mark Robins, Gary McSheffrey and Jordan Clarke. McSheffrey received a warm reception and was applauded after curling in a free-kick past the hapless Jamie Jones to open the scoring. The hometown kid returned the affection shown to him from the home crowd by then going to dive in an attempt to win a penalty, which he was correctly booked for.

In what fans of clubs managed by Mark Robins except for Coventry City fans have come to note as a Robins trope, his team attempted to sit on the goal advantage rather than attempt to score a second against a Sky Blues team that were there for the taking. Scunthorpe were made to pay after Marcus Tudgay lobbed their keeper in the final minutes to secure a hard-earned point for the home team, for which they were roundly booed for having the impudence of playing for an unpopular manager.

How Are They Doing?

That draw proved to be something of a turning point for Mark Robins’ reign at Scunthorpe, although they did record a remarkable win over Swindon a few weeks later. Since then though, it has been a tale of tactical inflexibility, baffling team selections and a preference for fielding loan signings over players owned by the club. All of which has placed Mark Robins in a similar situation as to the one Steven Pressley was in the last time we played Scunthorpe.

To add to the Steven Pressley parallels, Robins has come under fire for building a team to play 5 at the back only to implement it in a way that doesn’t suit the strengths of his playing squad. Robins made a number of changes over the summer in the transfer market but somehow has come out of it with a squad of six strikers but just one left-back and just one winger.

Despite the general disarray that Scunthorpe seem to be in, it is remarkably similar to the situation there were in the last time we played them almost exactly 12 months ago. Losing that game went on to completely derail our season after a solid start. Given that they managed 23 shots on goal in defeat to Blackpool, this is still a capable and dangerous side.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

The main threat from Scunthorpe comes in attack and the main source of that attacking threat is Paddy Madden. The Irish forward confirmed his status as a reliable source of goals last season as he managed 14 goals in a struggling side whilst playing a lot of his football on the right wing. He’ll be supported by Kevin van Veen who has struggled for goals since joining last January but is big and can link play pretty well, they also have the option of Darius Henderson from the bench.

Elsewhere, Scunthorpe are a physical and experienced team who will be more than capable of bullying our nimble attacking players into submission. Epitomising that is Neal Bishop in midfield who is a big, nasty and aggressive defensive midfielder who has plenty of experience of making life difficult for teams with pretensions of playing pretty football.

Prediction

The thought that a win in this game could get Mark Robins the sack at Scunthorpe is tantalising given the way he used this club as a stepping stone for a slightly better job two-and-a-half years ago. That’s something that adds spice to the occasion but as most of the playing and coaching staff at the club right now weren’t around for Robins’ departure, it means very little other than just another league game.

It’s a battle between the quick, nimble, passing team and the experienced, robust, solid team for who takes the three points. The first goal is likely to dictate how the battle plays out, although there aren’t many football games that aren’t dictated by the first goal, it’s certainly a thought to pad out this brisk preview though.

Anyway, I am going to be a bit confident here and suggest that we might win this game 2-1.

Illusions Of Delusions

In most circumstances, a final minute equaliser is a positive sign for a football team. Whether it’s through self-belief or simply better fitness, it shows that the team has an edge about it which can transform seasons.

Except last Tuesday night’s last minute equaliser against Scunthorpe saw little cause for celebration or hope for Sky Blues fans and the team were rewarded for their efforts by being roundly booed off the pitch. It was a display of frustration against a team that has ambled into a relegation battle through its ability to let games pass them by.

Fans favourite Marcus Tudgay is finally showing the form to justify the undying faith put into him by the fans.

Fans favourite Marcus Tudgay is finally showing the form to justify the undying faith put into him from the crowd.

In some ways, the past few performances have been encouraging. The new loan signings have added that missing dimension of pace to the team and we are a lot better to watch. Players seem to want the ball and work hard for the team. We should have beaten Scunthorpe and Rochdale, both of whom have caused problems for the best teams in this division. Even Marcus Tudgay is looking like a useful player now.

The frustration is though that we still aren’t getting results and the season is now getting to the serious bit. This was a difficult month with games mostly against teams challenging in the upper echelons of the division. But we are now six games without a win and sit bottom of the League One form table with teams around us starting to kick into gear. That collapse against Gillingham and Gary Madine’s missed penalty against Yeovil are looking very costly at this moment in time.

Every time this season that we have looked like turning the corner, we have suffered bad luck with injuries or refereeing decisions but more often have produced performances oddly lacking in intensity. It feels like Steven Pressley is still not sure how he wants the team to score goals which seems to be evident with the way the team goes to pieces once we get the ball into the final third.

It feels much more like we are set for another chastening defeat, a complete overhaul of the set-up of the team and more loan signings, than actually turning the corner. At various points this season Pressley has done just enough to create that illusion that things will eventually get better if we stick with him. With the potential risk of relegation to League Two the cost of this all proving to be only an illusion, how long can the trick go on for?

The knives are out for Steven Pressley with fans increasingly critical of his every move. Pre-game, his team selections are derided as increasingly random. During games, the chants of ‘Pressley out’ have began in earnest, alongside the dreaded ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’. Post-game, his interviews are taken either at face value or more cynically are seen as the manager taking Sky Blues fans for fools.

Had Newcastle won the league title in 95-96, 'I will love it!' would have been seen as it's defining moment.

Had Newcastle won the league title in 95-96, ‘I will love it!’ would have been seen as it’s defining moment.

So much of what a manager does is based on perception. Pressley was criticised for changing the defence from the Walsall game despite two of the back four being injured. The same fans that are chanting ‘Pressley out’ were sycophantically asking him for a wave not so long ago. When we were doing well, Pressley’s post-match interviews were barely the topic of any conversation.

It’s all what is known as confirmation bias – ‘the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.’ The focus on stuff like Pressley’s post-match interviews is only partially about the actual content, it’s the fact that they are increasingly happening after defeats. It’s the same reason why there is an increasing attention paid to the performances of ex-players that Pressley got rid of, it confirms an existing theory. Again, if we were winning games, the form of Carl Baker and Gary McSheffrey would be a mild curiosity.

If this sounds like I’m being critical of fellow fans, I apologise. Everyone has the right to opinion and you are free to call me a deluded idiot and list your reasons why. Personally I feel that the focus on tangential stuff like post-match interviews to judge a football manager is a diversion to the real business of focusing on why the team itself isn’t winning games.

The Ricoh Arena is not a nice play to play when you're not doing well and wearing Sky Blue.

The Ricoh Arena is not a nice play to play when you’re not doing well and wearing Sky Blue.

Wild conclusion here, but why I think people are focusing so intently on all of this stuff is because they simply have had enough of Steven Pressley. For a while now I wondered whether one more defeat would lead to the atmosphere at home games turning nasty. The reaction to last-minute equaliser last Tuesday is pretty good evidence that we have probably now past that point.

It was already going to be a tough battle to get us out of this mess with the form we have been displaying this season. But when a large section of the fan-base have lost faith in the manager and are desperate to find yet more evidence to disavow him, the pressure on the players is going to be ramped up that one notch higher.

Despite my own faith in Pressley, the easiest thing to do right now to take some of the pressure off the team would be to get rid of Pressley. It is looking like that rift between him and the fans is growing each game with some unlikely to be satisfied even if our form does improve between now and the end of the season.

It seems apparent to me that there is no willingness at boardroom level to sack Pressley and it looks like he has a lot more time than most want him to have. Just like 18 months ago, the fate of our club rests on the ability of Steven Pressley to manage a seemingly impossible scenario.