Scunthorpe United are treading water in League Two. The Iron are in a position in the current campaign where they are good enough to avoid the drop into the National League, but lack the quality to press up the table to challenge for a playoff spot.
Neil Cox has overcome a tough start to the campaign where his side lost six out of their opening eight games, including drubbings at the hands of Forest Green Rovers and Cambridge United. It took time for the club to find their stride, but a solid run of results between November and December along with a four-game winning streak in January has provided the valuable breathing room for the club.
The run during January has not quite lifted Cox’s side high enough into the table to consider a push for a place in the top seven, being backed at 40/1 in the football betting odds to surge into the post-season. Although the Iron’s hopes this season of promotion might be at an end, there could be hope for them to build vital momentum to take into the next campaign. Scunthorpe can look no further than the examples of two sides leading the charge towards League One in the current term.
Cheltenham Town drifted in and out of the top three last season before dropping out of the top seven after a poor run of form between November and the end of December. The Robins needed a reversal in fortunes and found it at the right time to reel off a five-win stretch to secure a spot in the playoffs as the regular season was brought to a premature end. Cheltenham’s campaign eventually ended in disappointment in a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Northampton Town in the League Two playoff semi-finals. However, they’ve used their loss and the confidence built from last term to great effect and are on course to earn automatic promotion to the third tier under the tenure of Michael Duff.
Cambridge are perhaps a better example. They were a side that were seemingly on the road to nowhere in the 2019/20 campaign. United were 16th before the season was curtailed, but in the preluding weeks, the U’s found their form to produce a four-match winning run, proving that they had the foundation of a squad that could succeed on a regular basis. Mark Bonner took charge on March 9 and didn’t manage a single game last season. However, he learned the strengths of his squad and made key additions in the summer signing Paul Mullin and Wes Hoolahan. They have provided the valuable experience needed to challenge for a top-three place this term.
It feels as though Scunthorpe are a long way from a return to the third tier. Cox is continuing to learn about his team every week amid challenging conditions. He and the Iron have the opportunity in the remaining months of the current campaign to put the groundwork in for next term to spring out of the blocks and mount a promotion surge. The two teams in position this season have proven that Scunthorpe are more than capable of achieving the feat.