Thought disappointed to lose, United manager Stuart McCall was pleased to see some fight from his side as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of high-flying Portsmouth on Saturday afternoon at Glanford Park.
Lee Novak netted for Scunthorpe in the second half, but two quick Pompey goals in the opening period secured the victory for the visitors.
McCall told iFollow Iron: “We’re always disappointed to lose any game naturally. We could have buckled at half-time. Funso, who is one of our most influential players, came off after 10 minutes and Cam (Borthwick-Jackson) came off at half-time. We were 2-0 down against the best side in the league, as the table shows, who are outstanding away from home.
“It could have been a case of do we buckle and it ends four or five nil, or do we show a bit and go out and win the second-half. They did that, and for spirit, guts and effort, it was terrific against a side with an experienced manager and a lot of lads who know this level.
“They’re a good side, no doubt, but the key is to try and get the first goal against them, and they got that from a set-play which they’re really strong at. We didn’t win the first header or the second ball, which is crucial, and then they got one again not long after. It was a good goal from their point of view. One of our forward players dropped a runner and (Gareth) Evans nicked in, which we’re always aware of and we showed that lads him doing that in the video on Friday.
“Funso had started the game really well and was outstanding last week against Bristol Rovers. We had to move George Thomas from a forward area into midfield because we couldn’t bring Josh Morris on that early in the game with him just returning from injury. We were already playing Rory McArdle at right-back with Perchy (James Perch) suspended, and it was just a mis-match of people in positions. We put Ike (Ugbo) on the right, which probably isn’t his strongest position, to get him involved with Novs (Lee Novak).
“In the second-half, it was a little bit flat and they had a couple of good opportunities, but we stuck at it and in the end we had chances. George sent one just over the bar, which I thought was in, while he also sent a free-kick inches wide. There were blocks, deflections and we had a go. The fans stuck with the players, which we needed, and that was really appreciated. There are ways to lose – at half-time we could have buckled but we didn’t and showed a bit of fight, grit and determination, which we’re going to need. We’re not at Portsmouth’s level at this moment, and we have a lot of work to do to get there, but one day we’ll be there.
“They gave everything and stuck at it as a unit and group. We have a big game on Tuesday (away at Southend) and can’t afford to be down. Every game is an opportunity to get three points, but we put it in perspective and hope there are no more injuries added to the casualty list. I think Funso and CBJ will definitely miss Tuesday. Perchy will return from suspension but I’m just hoping the couple of knocks we have don’t carry over into Tuesday. We’ll go down there in a manner where we think we can win it, because we showed a lot of spirit.”
The boss explained further about the Ojo and Borthwick-Jackson injuries, saying: “Funso missed some games with his hamstring and then got through two lots of 90 minutes at Mansfield and Bristol Rovers, playing really well. At training on Thursday, he felt it a little bit tight and then came in on Friday and felt it was okay, and the same this morning. However, when he got going in the game, he could feel it come back again. He’d started the game well and was looking as though he was going to control it.
“CBJ is hopefully just a contact on his foot, maybe severe bruising because it was a really strong tackle. I don’t think it’s his ankle or ligament at this moment in time, it looks to be just an impact injury. I don’t know the severity but it will probably put him out on Tuesday.”
Josh Morris returned to the substitutes’ bench after six weeks out with a broken jaw, but McCall said the circumstances weren’t right to bring him on.
The manager said: “We’ve got to get minutes into him. We were considering it with 20 minutes to go today but it wasn’t a game where he’d have had time on the ball – it was a crash, bang wallop game with lots of challenges coming in.”
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