Preview | Scunthorpe United (h)
As alluded to in Luke Williams’ pre match presser, the Scunthorpe side Notts face this weekend are very much a new look side. Not only do they have a plethora of new players, but a change in manager too has given them hope. Considering they are now just 4 points off of safety, following an upturn in form, the Iron don’t need much extra motivation for Saturday. But the potential of a crowd upwards of 15,000 will provide it, and as such our visitors will be much more threatening than their league position suggests.
Scunthorpe have won 2 of their last 3 games, a period in which they’ve scored 7 and conceded just 4. Former Ilkeston Town and Peterborough Sports boss Jimmy Dean finally has his side playing, with survival not an unrealistic prospect.
Two wins and a draw in the last six has provided Iron fans with some hope of putting a run together that sees them safe of the drop. However, it is their away form that continues to be a concern with the 1-1 draw at bottom placed Maidstone their only away point since the 1-0 win at Halifax back in January.
Two draws and a surprise defeat to Dagenham in the last six for Notts does much to confirm the slight drop in recent form that has seen The Magpies lose ground in the title race with Wrexham.
Looking at the team actions ranking radars and ignoring contributory factors off the field it's clear to see why Scunthorpe have struggled to get to grips with life in the National League, scoring pretty low in most areas. However, they are not far off matching Notts for challenge intensity suggesting they will be up for the challenge on Saturday.
Tactics & Players:
Iron boss Dean generally sets his team up in a 4-2-3-1, with the 2 shielding the back 4, allowing the front 4 more freedom. He clearly recognised Jacob Butterfield’s quality, pushing him further forward into the 10, where he is required to use less running power. They have plenty of quality in the wide areas too, players who look to get forward and play off of target man Richie Bennett.
Out on the left they have former Magpie Sean Shields, who, like Butterfield, has genuine quality while perhaps lacking the legs to be really effective in transition. It’s on the other side that the Iron have their most exciting player, 20 year old Cameron Wilson. The young winger was included in Paul Fairclough’s provisional England C squad, and with a brace at the weekend he had a good argument to be in the final 16.
Of players still with the club, Wilson is their top scorer with 5, and the 20 year old just keeps improving. What makes him such a dangerous player is his ability on both feet; he’s able to go either way, causing nightmares for defenders. He’s capable of going down the outside and clipping in a ball, or cutting in on his left and smashing home, as he did in a 4-1 win over Wealdstone at the weekend. He’s certainly a player to watch, especially as he will look to pick pockets of space in behind the wing backs.
Since their takeover the Iron have been extremely active, and that didn’t change in the dying embers of the window. They considerably improved their midfield, and added real grafters to compliment Butterfield’s quality. Dean Rance, who played a vital role in Dagenham’s 2-1 win at Meadow Lane, arrived on a free from the Daggers, and he’s sure to provide grit and quality when anchoring the midfield.
Arguably their most impressive signing of the whole window was the loan capture of Derby County midfielder Liam Thompson. The 20 year old Nottingham native is a former Dunkirk youth player, and is one that has huge amounts of experience despite his tender years. Thompson played 23 games for Derby in the Championship last season, and a further 13 appearances this season in League One, and he didn’t look out of place in either. Thompson is a midfielder who is full of energy, one who is likely to harass Notts as they look to implement their passing style. These new additions certainly make the midfield battle more interesting, as they now have more energy and quality in order to try and stifle Notts’ style.
The Iron are also a tremendous side when it comes to set pieces. They have quality delivery on both sides, and tend to favour an in swinging corner into the centre of the box. With uncertainty over which Notts keeper is likely to start, with Brooks on international duty and Slocombe almost back to full fitness, the Iron could look to take advantage, peppering balls into the box to put whoever is in between the sticks under pressure. Notts were ultimately undone by a long throw in at the weekend, and Scunthorpe posses one of these too, making them a threat from all dead ball situations. They’ll have been given a huge boost by being able to extend the loan of Harrogate defender Will Smith, who has netted 3 goals in his last 3 games, a real threat from the aforementioned set pieces.
Notts own team selection will be fascinating, and changes are going to be needed due to player availability. Tobi Adebayo-Rowling underwent surgery this week, ruling him out for the season, while Aden Baldwin and Cedwyn Scott remain out, and are major doubts for the weekend. International duty has ruled out Jodi Jones, who came on for Malta last night against North Macedonia in a 2-1 loss. Tiernan Brooks is unavailable too, having being called up to the Ireland u21 side for the first time. That gives Luke Williams a dilemma, whether to start Sam Slocombe in goal, who only returned to training recently, or whether to put his trust in young keeper Archie Mair, at what is a crucial part of the season. The Magpies will have been given a boost by the return of Richard Brindley to first team action, following a lengthy spell on the sidelines. The right sides defender may not yet be fully fit, but he’s expected to be involved in some sort of capacity this weekend.
Scunthorpe currently sit 3rd from bottom in the league, 4 points from Dorking in 20th but having played a game more.
As mentioned earlier life on the road hasn't been good to The Iron this season winning just 1 of 18 played.
In attack they are averaging 1.21 goals per game compared to an xG of 1.22 so performing exactly as expected.
Defensively they are conceding 1.87 goals per game with an xCG of 1.55 suggesting they need to tighten up a little at the back but still performing pretty much as expected.
Scunthorpe Away Form:
P 18 | W 1 | D 6 | L 11 | F 14 | A 34 | GD -20 | PTS 9
Macaulay Langstaff - 37 (xG 30.79)
Cameron Wilson - 5 (xG 3.01)
Again, Notts at home means the bookies get lazy and make them big favourites with the best for a Notts win at the time of writing 11/50 with Coral.
Coral are also offering 12/1 for the away win and you can get 23/4 for the draw with BetUK.
Based on these odds there is a 81.97% chance of a Notts win and 7.69% chance of a Scunthorpe win.
It's community day at the Lane this Saturday and a big crowd expected including some 1700 from Scunthorpe adding a little extra spice to the occasion.
Notts will be desperate to get back to winning ways and hopefully start to put pressure back onto Wrexham so as not to allow them to skip off into the EFL sunset. However, despite The Iron's generally poor form this season they have recruited well in recent weeks and are starting to look much stronger and cohesive as unit.
This is a team that will need to scrap for every point if they are going to give themselves any hope of avoiding the drop so Luke Williams' players will have to be at their best to be sure of securing the 3 points.
As always thanks for reading and if you haven't seen it yet why not check out our National League Q3 Report where we take a deep data led dive into the third quarter of the season, identify our Q3 best XI and consider how the final run-in might pan out.
Full stats report of the Scunthorpe game to follow.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard Ogando - @notts_stats
Tom Williams - @tomhwilliams23
Colin Sisson - @colin_sisson
Analysts Bar Podcast - @analysts_bar