League Two’s top goalscorer and Iron striker Sam Winnall has been nominated for the Sky Bet League Two player of the month, and Russ Wilcox believes his nomination is duly deserved.Throughout February, Winnall scored four goals in five games which ensured United ended yet another month unbeaten.
Winnall first walked into the club back in July when they played at Frickley during a pre-season friendly, having just been released from his hometown club Wolverhampton Wanderers.
He quickly impressed then manager Brian Laws and Wilcox and since then he has continued to take League Two by storm.
Wilcox told The Iron Player that Winnall has really excelled himself this season: “He has come on a long way and that is great credit to him, from day one when he walked into the building and played at Frickley.
“He impressed us with his work ethic and he was working in behind the frontline and there are not many strikers that do that anymore.
“He likes to play into feet and link off and he has showed that a lot this season.
“Sam is one of the few out and out strikers nowadays that likes to play right on the shoulder of the defender and that has worked to our benefit numerous times this season.”
Wilcox added: “He has 18 goals to his name already this season and we are hoping that he can get towards the 30 mark.”
Etienne Esajas also joined the club on an initial trial in the summer but in recent months he has found it difficult to cement his place in the first team.
Despite that Wilcox still believes he brings a lot of quality to the team and that was shown as his performance played a big part in last week’s reserve victory at Mansfield Town.
The Dutch winger scored a brace last Wednesday while he set up Callum Howe’s header in a purposeful second half performance.
“I have said that Esajas’ quality really showed out – obviously his two goals and the assist for Callum Howe’s header,” Wilcox said.
“We all know what Etienne is about.
“I have firsthand experience of that quite a lot having worked with him at Sheffield Wednesday.
“The most pleasing thing for me was his work without the ball and that could be key to him getting back in the team.
“He has watched the team and he knows exactly what we are about.”
The United manager added: “He knows, as do the rest of the players, what we are about.”
Wilcox, who watched the reserve match alongside Grimsby manager Paul Hurst, praised the work of the reserve players who played at Rainworth last week.
He said: “I was just delighted with the attitude and application of the players.
“It wasn’t a pretty game and we knew it wouldn’t be because we know how Mansfield play.
“The pitch wasn’t ideal as it was uneven but I have to say we adapted really well.
“Those players are not in the team but they are working really hard to get into the team."
The United boss added: “If they continue to work as hard as what they have been doing then they’ll start pushing the first team players even further."
With the first team having a lot of games in a short period of time, Wilcox has decided to put the possibility of a reserve team friendly on hold – for now.
He wants his players fully fit for all the games ahead and therefore he doesn’t feel it is right that they should risk their fitness with friendly reserve games.
See much more from Russ Wilcox on The Iron Player.