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Interviews

Wilcox reflects on Swindon game

3 March 2020

The Iron suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of table-topping Swindon Town on Tuesday night.

Russ Wilcox named a youthful starting XI on the night due to injuries and the upcoming home clash with local rivals Grimsby Town on Saturday.

Wilcox’s first words after the full-time whistle were: “It’s hard to throw too much positivity at it (the result), but we had 11 Under-23 players out there tonight at different times. That’s the way forward for the club at the minute, that’s the remit.

“There were some good performances out there, Swindon are obviously top of the table, that’s 21 games they’ve won this season, but I’m still very proud of the lads.”

On the topic of Eoin Doyle – who took his goal tally to 25 for the season in League Two tonight – Wilcox stated: “That’s the difference really, you’ve got to pay top dollar for that kind of player. We can’t really do that at the moment, so we’ve got to develop our own.

“Doyle is a class act, we know all about him from his Chesterfield days. He doesn’t seem to get involved in the game with the link-up play, but he’s always there to finish things off.

“I thought our shape was outstanding, we didn’t just concede free-kicks, we stayed on our feet and we forced them into certain areas, which is what we’d planned.

“We looked a threat on the counter-attack too, but conceding just before half-time gave their fans a lift because they were getting frustrated, but overall I’m really pleased with our performance.”

“I think it’s all that’s cost us tonight (lapses in concentration), he declared. “Not clearing our lines when it mattered, sometimes you need to stick it in an area that’s not going to hurt you, but I think that was mostly in the first half.

“In the second half, I thought we limited them to very little. We grew into the game and looked likely to grab an equalising goal.

“At one stage, I think Jordan Gabriel is almost too honest. It sounds awful, but from the short corner there is contact, and if he goes down the referee has to give a penalty. That’s just because he’s young and perhaps a little bit naïve, but there are loads of positives to take.

“If you look at Jai Rowe’s debut tonight, he’s 18-years-old but there was a lot of maturity in his performance. There’s Jordan (Gabriel) behind him aged 21, Butroid’s 21, Bedeau’s 20, and Tom Pugh’s only 18, he came on for the last 15 minutes or so. Things are looking really promising.”

When asked further about a potential foul on Jordan Gabriel, Wilcox asserted: “It’s a penalty. I still think the referee should give it for the contact, you shouldn’t have to go to ground to earn a decision. That could’ve been a big moment for us at 1-0.

“Obviously, Swindon are outstanding, in the way they move the ball around the pitch. They’ve got great players and men at their disposal - plenty of experience. They’re pushing for promotion and we’ve gone down a different route at the moment. Although, on that performance, the future looks rosy.”

Jai Rowe earned his Iron debut against difficult opposition - completing 73 minutes. Despite a hard challenge picking up a booking in the opening few minutes, the youngster put in a solid display on the right side, after Wilcox put his faith in him.

“I was actually shouting ‘compete’ to him!”, Wilcox laughed. “We wanted everyone to be competitive after watching a few of their games, most teams just sat off and made it too easy for them. We had to try and engage them further up the pitch, but make sure our pressing line was quite deep.

“Once they entered our half, it worked well. (On Rowe’s early yellow) You’re just hoping the ref has a bit of common sense there early on, he looked at me, and I said ‘come on ref’, it was a yellow but certainly not a red.

“We spoke to Jai at half-time, saying ‘you’ve got to show a bit of discipline now’. He had to make sure he forced them to play and not make too many tackles, which is what he did, and he’s learning all the time.

“He’s done well in the under-23s, and at 18, he’s a first-year professional. If players like Jai can keep improving, things are looking good for the future.”

Ben Liddle was substituted during the second half after looking like coming off with a potential injury, but when asked, Wilcox said: “I don’t think there’s anything to that one, maybe a bit of fatigue. He’s not played a lot of football, he was at Tottenham (for Middlesbrough in the FA Cup) maybe a month and a half ago but he’s not played much since then.

“It’s a tough game when you’re chasing and working without the ball, but the team shape – and his shape – was good.”

Turning his attentions to Saturday’s match against Grimsby Town, Wilcox acknowledged the magnitude of the fixture for everyone involved.

“It’s a big game coming up, we’re looking forward to that one already now this (the Swindon fixture) is out of the way. I’m delighted with our performance tonight, but Saturday (Grimsby Town fixture) really is about getting the result,” he said.

“I think the reverse fixture was a fairly scrappy one, and I’d maybe expect the same when they come to our place. It’s a small pitch (at the Sands Venue Stadium), and you’re never quite sure what shape they’ll play with.

“Myself and Lee (Turnbull, head of recruitment) went last week to watch them against Newport County and we’ll make sure the lads are ready for it.”

Kevin van Veen and Abo Eisa didn’t make the matchday squad against Swindon after picking up injuries against Port Vale, and Wilcox brought us up to speed with what he knew post-match.

“Fingers crossed. They’re both making progress, and whether they’ll be ready for Saturday is another matter, but they certainly won’t be far away I wouldn’t think,” he said.

Wilcox also stated the reasoning behind John McAtee, Andy Butler, and Devarn Green’s omission from the starting XI.

“(Where McAtee and Butler are concerned) It’s just a case of freshening things up really, with one eye on the weekend, I’ll admit that,” he said.

“Devarn travelled with us but he’d picked up a nasty dead leg on Saturday, so it was very much touch and go with him tonight, hopefully he’ll be good to go at the weekend.”

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