Brian Laws says relegation battle will be 'tight affair' following Scunthorpe United's defeat to Hartlepool United
BRIAN Laws concedes that the battle for League One survival may well go down to the wire after watching Scunthorpe United crash to another defeat against one of their main rivals for relegation.
Two first-half goals ensured in-form Hartlepool United yesterday claimed a deserved three points at Glanford Park and sucked the Iron right back into the mix.
Pools, who looked dead and buried at Christmas, are now only eight points behind Scunthorpe thanks to a six-match unbeaten run. They also have a game in hand.
The Iron remain three points clear of the bottom four, after Colchester United were humbled 5-1 at home by Tranmere Rovers, but they are now below Oldham Athletic, who beat doomed Portsmouth 1-0.
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Laws says it is apparent, despite a brief upturn in fortunes during January and early February, those connected with the Iron are going to need nerves of steel during the final quarter of the campaign.
“It shows you that just when you think you've cracked it and got your home form right, low and behold, you get knocked back again,” said the Iron boss after the 2-1 loss to Pools.
“Unless you put a real run together, you're always going to be flirting with the bottom four, putting one foot in it and then out of it.
“Today has shown us that the teams around us are also fighting for their lives.
“It could be a real tight affair come the end of the season.
“We might look at this game as one that got away, but I hope we don't.
“In the last 12 games particularly there isn't going to be a lot of composed, beautiful football to be played.
“There are a lot of battles to be won and today we didn't win enough battles.”
Laws was reasonably pleased with the way the Iron performed during the final third of the game, during which time substitute James Alabi came off the bench to mark his professional debut with a goal.
But he could not legislate for their first-half display, during which fine strikes from James Poole and Jonathan Franks – albeit on the back of some poor Scunthorpe defending – put Pools into a lead they rarely looked like relinquishing.
“For the first 15 minutes of the game I thought we were the best side - we were on the front foot and we looked good,” he continued.
“The turning point, without doubt, was the first goal.
“It was a poor one to concede from our point of view. It was great hold up play from their striker, but the fact we allowed a midfield player to run through unchallenged to slot it into the back of the net was disappointing.
“I don't think we reacted well enough from then on. It became a panic and some of our play was poor.
“We went in a half-time 2-0 down and when you get that point, you know the opposition have got such a huge thing to hold on to.
“Second half we made more of a fight of it, but Hartlepool got the edge on us in the first half.
“I don't think we responded well enough to get back into the game.”