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Hurst reflects on Portsmouth encounter

21 January 2020

Though disappointed to exit the Leasing.com Trophy at the quarter-finals stage, Iron manager Paul Hurst felt there were aspects to be encouraged by from the 2-1 away defeat at League One side Portsmouth on Tuesday evening.

John Marquis gave the hosts the lead, but Scunthorpe hit back through yet another spectacular strike from Abo Eisa in the second-half as they dominated large parts of the game.

However, former Iron loanee Cameron McGeehan struck what proved the winner as last season’s winners reached the semi-final of the tournament.

Hurst told iFollow Iron: “It was a performance against a very good Portsmouth team where we were brave, got on the ball and had a lot of possession. It’s the final bits that matter, and they had two shots on goal in the second-half – Rory (Watson) saved one from Marquis, which would have made it 3-1, but for the one from McGeehan, which was the winner, they were clinical.

“The message before the game was to build on the performance from Saturday (at Bradford) and try to get to those levels again. We dominated large parts of the game for the second match running. We put the crowd on edge and there were a few moans and groans (from their fans) because we dominated large parts of the game. It’s the end of the competition for us so we’re disappointed, but I’ve seen some real positives from the last two games of how we’ve controlled matches and looked a decent team.

“We went into half-time feeling we were well in the game, and asked the players to up it because I didn’t feel we went for it as much as we could in the first half. Fair play to them, because in the second period we did do that and got level. At that point, you perhaps thought the team that would go on to win it would be ourselves but they broke and showed their quality with a clinical finish from a player I know the Scunthorpe fans know well, and in the end that was the difference.

“We’d have been 90 minutes away from Wembley had we won tonight and that’s a frustration because I feel it was there for us, but we didn’t quite do enough to win the game. We more than held our own against a very good team and have to use that as a positive. It was good getting Kev (van Veen) back out on the pitch, while it was good for Alfie (Beestin, who signed for the Under-23s last week and made his first team debut at Bradford) to get more minutes too.

“Kev’s not been out on the training pitch much at all since Christmas, because of illness and injury, but he showed some nice touches, and put in a great ball that we couldn’t quite get on the end of. We’ll have to see (regarding whether he’s fit to start against Crewe on Saturday) but he’ll certainly be in the squad.”

Talking about switching the focus to the league and Crewe at the Sands Venue Stadium this weekend, he continued: “That’s all we can do now. We’re not in the position we would like overall but there are still lots of points to play for. We’ll try and use the remaining games to get as many points as possible, get wins and give the fans something to cheer about. We’ll also try and find out about a few players and maybe even look at systems as we move forward. As I’ve said, I won’t let it peter out. The last two performances have given me encouragement.”

Hurst was also full of praise for the 85 Iron fans who made the long trip south to support their said, adding: “They would have been relatively pleased with an encouraging performance against a good team, albeit not the result tonight. We need them and really appreciate the efforts and lengths they go to, to follow the team around and give their support.”

The extension of Junior Brown’s loan stay until the end of the season was announced before kick-off, and the boss was delighted to see the Coventry left-back remain at the club.

He said: “It didn’t look like it was going to happen, but we managed to strike a deal we were happy with and we’re pleased he’s here because Kgosi Ntlhe is out through injury too and we need that cover at left-back. Junior’s done well for us in general, and hopefully he can carry that on.”

The boss also gave an injury update on Lee Novak, who came off during the second period.

“He’s hurt his ankle tonight, with a block tackle in a melee from a corner, and isn’t available for the next two league games anyway because of suspension, so we’re not blessed in that part of the pitch at the minute. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious, but we’ll get on with it though.”

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