Portsmouth is a 'key game' for Scunthorpe United, but not a must-win one insists Brian Laws
IT IS the biggest match of a potentially season-defining month for Scunthorpe United.
But Brian Laws, keen to avoid piling any extra pressure on his side’s attempts to climb out of the bottom four, stops short of labelling tonight’s game against Portsmouth as a must-one win for the home side.
Five of Scunthorpe’s next six matches come at Glanford Park, the venue at which they have experienced few comforts again this season.
But a positive result against Pompey, Laws hopes, could provide a much-needed morale boost for players and fans alike – and more importantly act as a catalyst for the run of games that awaits in the next few weeks.
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“If it was the last game of the season and it all depended on it, then it’s a must-win game,” Laws told the Telegraph.
“It’s not the end of the season though.
“It’s a very, very important game for us, but to say it’s a must-win game, I don’t think so.
“Everybody understands what it’s all about, but to put that on the shoulders of the players, above all else, I think is the wrong thing for me to say.
“We don’t have to talk about it, or be reminded of it. The players understand the situation, but they’ve got to go out there with confidence.
“I want us to play with confidence and play football, but I also want us to win the game.”
Portsmouth are four points behind the Iron in the League One table and have lost their last seven matches in a run of 16 games without a win.
But Laws has warned those fans expecting a walkover to be cautious.
Results may have been almost non-existent for Pompey since the end of October, but that, the Iron boss insists, is more as a result of the chopping and changing that has been necessary through a high turnover in players rather than a reflection of the squad’s quality.
Indeed, the south coast club have used 41 players already during another tumultuous campaign which sees them remain in administration and preparing for a 10-point penalty.
“Even though they are on a poor run, their performances and results don’t quite marry up,” said Laws.
“Portsmouth, on paper, are a good side.
“The chopping and changing that occurs is not down to their manager, it’s down to what has been at his disposal.
“It’s no surprise they haven’t won many games because there’s been no consistency in the team. It’s had to keep changing.
“They’ll probably use more players this year than any Football League club has in one season. That’s because of their circumstances.
“They will have good quality players out there though tonight and we have to be aware of that.”
Such is the level of resignation about Pompey’s plight – it would take almost a miracle to get them out of the bottom four given the points deduction that awaits – Laws accepts it is Scunthorpe who have more resting on the outcome of tonight’s match, which would have been played a fortnight ago had it not been for a frozen Glanford Park pitch.
“I would imagine there is less pressure on them than there is us," Laws added.
“For us, the pressure is on to win the game. For Portsmouth, there are different circumstances surrounding that football club.
“Most of them aren’t really their players as they are only on short-term contracts, so they’ll probably be a little bit more relaxed than us.”