Chris Sumpter blog: Scunthorpe United must continue to work hard to compensate for obvious lack of flair
THERE were times, in the not too distant past, that when Scunthorpe United needed a flash of inspiration, one came via a genuine moment of class.
A Paul Hayes flick-on before Gary Hooper expertly dispatched the ball into the bottom corner. A turn on a sixpence in a crowded penalty area from Billy Sharp that resulted in the same outcome.
Glanford Park in 2012/13 continues to be noticeably devoid of the icons of recent years.
There are no match-winners who can change a game with a swing of a boot, a distinct lack of the ruthlessness of past seasons in front of goal.
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But if 2013 has produced a semblance of something to cling on to, it’s the presence of a work ethic and a determination which may just prove to be a defining factor in Scunthorpe’s attempts to stay out of the bottom four.
Such qualities admittedly are no substitute for class – hard work alone will not win you titles – but character counts for plenty when in the desperate position the Iron have spent most of this surly of seasons.
It has served them well since the New Year, helping them to nine points out of a possible 18. A modest return that remains, but it is the same as they managed during the first two-and-a-half months of the campaign.
More importantly, there is renewed hope, although in some eyes no doubt still slim, that Tuesday’s tense victory over Portsmouth can act as a catalyst for the crunch period in United’s calendar.
Manager Brian Laws played down the importance of his side’s battle with Pompey in the build-up, preferring to refer to it as a ‘key game’ rather than the must-win category it was afforded by most others.
He didn’t say so in as many words, but the relief which greeted the final scoreline suggested even in his eyes it had never been anything but.
Fortunately, albeit more through chance than great play, Scunthorpe found a winning goal five minutes from time when Akpo Sodje capitalised on slack defensive marking to guide home his second header of the night to end troubled Pompey’s resistance.
Sodje has had already his knockers, but he typifies the sort of character United need given their obvious absence of flair.
He is someone with big shoulders who went about answering critics in the perfect fashion – a brace of goals to all but relegate rivals Portsmouth.
His second against Pompey may have lacked the finesse of Hooper or the simplicity of Sharp, but it was as important as any bagged by either of that prolific duo.
The Iron must hope, be they simple or special, there are many more Sodje goals to come.
The summer will no doubt bring another clear-out at Glanford Park.
The chance to rebuild and readdress the balance of a squad which despite currently operating on the 12th highest playing budget in League One, has little or nothing to back-up a stretched starting XI.
But for now United need those players currently on the payroll to maintain the desire and work-rate they have produced in the past few weeks.
It’s the only chance the club has of staying out of the bottom four.