Iron captain Sam Slocombe credited the character of his side after Easter Monday’s 1-0 win over Oxford United at Glanford Park left them on the brink of promotion to League One.
That result saw United maintain their five point advantage over fourth-placed Fleetwood Town with just two games of the regular campaign now remaining, while also keeping them two points clear at the top of the division.
The Iron showed mental fortitude to secure the win given they had suffered late setbacks in their two previous outings against Bury and Morecambe, and Slocombe told The Iron Player: “It was a great performance by the whole team.
“It was a real high-pressure match, which kind of showed. They [Oxford] needed the points to get back in the play-offs and we needed the points to keep us in the position we were in.
“That game on Monday was probably one of the biggest pressure games you’ll get all season, and the lads dealt with it really well by putting in a proper shift. It was a fantastic feeling to come off the pitch with the win.”
Going into the game against the Us, there remained a firm possibility automatic promotion would be confirmed on home turf, but the Iron were made to wait by each of their three nearest challengers also picking up maximum points.
While there was a sense of frustration at not being able to celebrate fully on the day as initially hoped, Slocombe added: “We did what we had to do.
“It would have been nice to do it at home in front of all our fans, as they were fantastic on Monday. The main thing was we did what we had to do, which is what we’ve tried to concentrate on all year.
“Obviously if results went another way we’d have been happy, but we put a performance in under pressure and walked away with a valuable three points.”
In seeing off the challenge of Oxford, United now enter Saturday’s meeting with Exeter City at St James’ Park knowing a solitary point will effectively seal a return to League One at the first time of asking following relegation last season.
Russ Wilcox’s side are likely to face a stern test however, with the Grecians sitting just two points above the drop-zone as they fight for Football League survival, and Slocombe admitted: “It’s going to be similar to Torquay.
“They’re obviously very close to relegation, and it’s a bit of a scrap down there. It’s going to be difficult for Torquay to get out of that to be honest, but it’s very tight for that last relegation place.
“Exeter are fighting for their careers, and to not have a relegation on their CV. It’s going to be tough. We’ve had a good record in the road this season and in that part of the country, so we’re hoping to go there and continue our form.”
Slocombe can empathise with the Devon outfit’s plight having been involved in similar situations already in his career, and the 25-year-old said: “They have a lot to play for, and having been down there [with Scunthorpe] in the past two seasons I know how nervy it is.
“They’re going to be fighting their heart out for every point they can pick up, and we’ve got to go there and be bang on form.”
Although Exeter currently find themselves towards the bottom of the division, United need only look back to October’s 4-0 defeat at Glanford Park as evidence of the damage they could yet inflict on the Iron’s promotion quest.
The fortunes of the two sides have differed greatly since that day, and Slocombe added: “I was impressed by them at the time to be honest, as they scored a couple of very good goals.
“It surprised me a little bit to see them down there, even though we didn’t have our best game against them. We definitely want to overturn the result from earlier in the season.
“We’re going out to win the game. We’re not going for a draw, and that’s how we’ve set our team up this season. It’s been the mainstay of what we want to do.
“In our run of 28 games unbeaten we’ve gone out to win every game, whether it’s against top of the league or bottom of the league.”
Depending on a series of permutations, it remains possible for United to make it a double celebration by clinching the League Two title alongside promotion in Exeter, and the Scunthorpe-born goalkeeper said: “We can still win the league, which is as much motivation as you need.
“We want to go there and pick up the win. If we do that, and results go right for us, we could win the league down there. That’s important for us, so we definitely want to go down there and put on a display.
“At the start of the season, promotion was our aim and it still is our primary goal but we’re now so close to winning the league and all the players want a Championship under their belt.”
See much more from Sam Slocombe, David Mirfin and Russ Wilcox on The Iron Player.