“It was a rollercoaster,” was how Iron manager Stuart McCall described the 3-3 home draw against Oxford United.
Scunthorpe came back from three goals down to net three goals inside seven second-half minutes, and could have even won it in the end.
The result ended a run of consecutive losses which had reached five games, and McCall feels the spirit of the comeback was a major positive.
He told iFollow Iron: “I’m proud of the comeback naturally. Yes, we need to eradicate the goals conceded - we know that. But we can build on the spirit – if you’ve no spirit in your club then there’s no point in being about. They showed they have that character and desire that they want to be here and make a success of what we’re going to do.
“It’s mixed emotions – obviously one of relief because we’ve stopped the run (of losing games) we were on. We desperately wanted the three points today but at 3-0 down if somebody had given us a point we’d have snapped their hands off for it.”
On the switch of a 4-3-2-1 formation initially, he said: “We know we’ve got to try and make ourselves a little harder to play against and to beat. It worked out fairly well away at Blackpool, where we limited their opportunities and were solid in the way we played. I think it’s very hard to go and play like that at home, but we tweaked it a little bit today and went with an extra man in the middle of the park to help us, knowing they play that system. I think when you do that, it’s all about getting the first goal. I think they scored with their first shot and it deflected off big Cam (Cameron Burgess) and into the net past Jak (Alnwick). When you’re in a run like the one we’ve been on, then things like that go against you.
“We decided to make an early change to the shape, because once they went a goal up in recent games they’ve shut up shop and that’s how they’ve been getting their points. We threw Ike (Ugbo) on and went a little bit more direct.
“You saw the deficiency in us again in certain areas and I think there was a lack of confidence in certain parts. You want the lads to take the ball and play but in certain areas when you lack confidence, have gone a goal behind and the crowd are a bit edgy and you’re a bit edgy, we have to just go a bit more forward and get it in areas that will hurt Oxford rather than play in front of them.
“I didn’t think there was anything in the first-half, and we had once chance just before half-time from a corner. We had a lot of corners, and the wind was affecting the game a little bit.
“In the second-half, we came out and wanted to get out of the blocks like we did early on in the second period against Plymouth. We forced a couple of corners and free-kicks and then with their first attack they scored and it became 2-0. The third one was from a corner, we cleared it and it then landed for them.
“You look at the clock, and I’m probably more optimistic than pessimistic, and at 3-0 it was ‘see if we can get one goal and put some pressure on them’. Obviously, we did and they were three quick goals. We then had chances in the final stages of the game to nick a winner, which would have been outstanding.”
He continued: “What you have to guarantee as a player is your absolute commitment and go until the final whistle, regardless of what the result is – whether you’re three up or three down for instance. When you’re in a dressing room, you look around and you need people to stand up and be counted. We had that in certain areas today, which dragged us back into the game. That part of it bodes well for the future, because you don’t want a weak mentality in the side. We have areas where we’ll make mistakes, there’s no doubt about that, but they’re honest mistakes – it’s not through lack of effort or lack of desire. They all want to do the best they possibly can.
“We’ll look at it again. We had a good long week last week and we decided to play in a different manner. It’s probably good next week’s an FA Cup game (against Burton Albion). Burton had a terrific win today and have started picking up, so it will be a difficult game, but it’ll be a nice little respite from the league at the moment. Hopefully in two weeks’ time, the likes of Funso (Ojo, who’s out with a hamstring problem) will be back for us, which will help. Also, some of the lads will have a little bit more time to recover from some of the injuries we got today.”
The goals which saw the Iron come back to draw arrived through Jordan Clarke (although Matthew Lund is claiming it), George Thomas and Charlie Goode.
McCall said: “That’s what football is all about – getting goals. You can play as well as you want, like we did last week in that spell against Plymouth but we ended up losing 4-1. That’s another three here again we’ve conceded, but three we’ve scored. We’re working tirelessly with the players on the mental, physical and tactical aspects of it. As a manager, you’ve got to get the best out of what you’ve got, and seep every little bit of energy from it. They’ve got to give everything – people will be picked on what they’re doing in terms of how much it means to them. They showed that today and fought back, so that’s pleasing.
“For the first, Jordan hit it well but it’s Lundy’s goal because he got a flick on it. The second is a fantastic free-kick, which started with Novs (Lee Novak) winning the ball in the middle of the park and looking after it. He does a lot of work that goes unnoticed by other people, but he’s one of the leaders in that dressing room and he was terrific in the second-half. It was a great free-kick from George and he’s been practicing them. Again, it was headed off the line and it felt to Charlie, he hit it really well and it flew in. We then had near-misses to get the winner.
“It’s a building block in that we’ve got a point and it ends the run we’ve been on. When you’re 3-0 down, it does feel like a win even though it’s just one point. We’ll pick them up, rally them again on Monday, we know we have goals in the side and we’ve got spirit. We just have to try our best to stop conceding goals.”
The boss explained why Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was withdrawn at half-time, and also hailed Novak and Lund for battling through the pain barrier.
McCall continued: “CBJ has had a sore hip flexor for a week, but he trained okay on Thursday and on Friday he was fine. It must have gradually got worse as the first-half went on. You saw him try and clear the ball and he was in pain, so that consequently limited the substitutions.
“It was Lundy’s first game back. He’d been booked and once you get tired there’s a chance he could bring somebody down. Novs has missed two weeks of training now and his ankle is like a balloon but he’s played through that again – not a lot of people see that and notice that. A lot of people would have said no when asked if they could play, with the size of his ankle, but that’s the type of character you want in the dressing room.
“Lundy’s the same – he’s had a problem with his ankle and then he’s tweaked his hamstring because he’d worked that much. On Thursday, he was struggling to walk, yet he came in on Friday because he knows he’s needed and put himself there.
“They’re the type of people we need in the team and in the dressing room. There are also a couple of others carrying knocks, but we’ve thankfully got no game in midweek, but we can do a lot of hard work and keep at it, keep believing.”
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