October’s Loan Watch: Norwood and Johnstone at Scunthorpe United

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By Ross Gibson, creator of Scunthorpe blog Any Old Iron.

October has been a packed month for Scunthorpe United – with seven games including League and Cup fixtures for the two on loan players. Sam Johnstone missed the final three games of the month due to a dislocated finger while Oliver Norwood was able to feature in all games for Scunthorpe bar one, when he was away on international duty with Northern Ireland.

Johnstone’s injury was a blow for the Iron, especially given his recent form.

Stevenage 1-2 Scunthorpe

Johnstone started the month brightly performing extremely well against promotion hopefuls Stevenage, who are the archetypal, physical long ball lower league team.  It’s highly unlikely Johnstone would have faced a similar type of football playing for Man United’s youth setup however being able to flourish against opponents not dissimilar to body builders is crucial to any player’s development.

Scunthorpe were under the cosh for large parts of the game, but the aerial and physical bombardment seemed almost meat and drink for Johnstone. He also made several key saves, without which I doubt the Irons would have sneaked the smash and grab victory.

In comparison the contest was more of struggle for Norwood. A lot of action bypassed the midfield area and Scunthorpe’s ball retention was poor; limiting his influence on proceedings.

Scunthorpe 0-1 Oldham

Following League victories over Yeovil and Stevenage it was a case of ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’, as the Iron limply crashed out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Oldham’s frustrating methods worked to a tee and as a consequence Scunthorpe offered very little going forward. You certainly could not blame Johnstone, who did all that could be asked of him. His distribution, communication and other parts of his game were as solid as ever. He could do nothing for the goal and he seemed to be quietly despairing at the poor performances in front of him.

Norwood however must take a fair share of the blame. When you have players on loan from Manchester United, particularly ones whom aspire to make it in the Champions’ first team they need to take control of proceedings at this level. Of course you can’t always expect them to turn games on their heads, but doing it on a more consistent basis would be a nice start.

Scunthorpe 2-3 Leyton Orient

A promising first half display collapsed beyond all recognition in the second period to send Scunthorpe to their second consecutive defeat.

Norwood missed the encounter due to being away on international duty with Nigel Worthington’s Northern Ireland squad (League One doesn’t get international breaks sadly), but Johnstone started in goal.

The United ‘keeper will have been disappointed to concede three goals, however they were all a result of excellent finishing and he could do little to prevent the goals. Such is life, and if ever there was a game that shows that sometimes a keeper can only do so much…..

Brentford 0-0 Scunthorpe

This was Johnstone’s final game before his injury setback. He will have been delighted to have gone out on a high having kept a clean sheet – the first for Scunthorpe in 25 games, so no mean feat.

It was another gritty performance from Alan Knill’s men. Away to a team significantly higher in the league and down to ten men for the final twenty minutes the visitors ability to dig in was to be commended.

Both Johnstone and Norwood played well – offering sound defensive cover when required; be it good tracking or goalkeeping. They showed their class in a team effort, when such performances don’t always facilitate that.  Norwood occasionally offered counter-attacking threats at times when on another day Scunthorpe might have taken all three points, even with 10 men.

MK Dons 0-0 Scunthorpe

Another gritty 0-0 draw; where Norwood was industrious in the middle of the park – offering plenty between both boxes.

On the large pitch in Milton Keynes plenty of running was required, so the fact he was capable of matching and surpassing his peers for fitness was definitely a welcome bonus. Industrial performances are often required from midfielders in the lower leagues, where unfortunately technical brilliance is not always present.

Scunthorpe 2-2 Huddersfield

Claiming a point from a side with an unbeaten run of 40 plus games is no mean feat. Norwood played particularly well and he will be disappointed team mates Chris Dagnall and Michael O’Connor had penalties saved denying the Iron a vital win and big scalp.

Norwood and O’Connor formed an understanding in the centre of the park, feeding off each other quite brilliantly, which allowed Scunthorpe to boss the midfield area for lengthy parts of the game. On another day their partnership would have been the catalyst for a fantastic win.

Norwood’s ability to dictate possession was an impressive aspect. He also chipped in with his first ever professional goal; an absolute thunderbolt from 30 yards into the top corner. Followed by a mazy 50 yard run in celebration – he certainly seemed to enjoy it! Moments like that are always welcomed and had Scunthorpe been more ruthless, there might have been even more. His best game for the Iron so far. Top stuff from Olly.

Scunthorpe 4-2 Tranmere

Tranmere travelled to Glanford Park for the final game of the month. Despite a sloppy first half display the entire side really kicked into gear during the second period to claim Scunthorpe’s first victory since the start of the month.

Norwood created Scunthorpe’s first equaliser with a great free kick to the back post and the delivery summed up his performance. He was everywhere, knocking simple passes here and there plus the occasional moment of brilliance with a lovely cross field pass. He was an absolute gem in possession and a key player in our turnaround to win 4-2. The performance was very welcome. If he can continue to progress, he’ll be an invaluable player for the Irons between now and whenever his loan spell finishes.

The same goes for Johnstone, who has been a fantastic ‘keeper during his loan spell. He has defied his young years.

Whether the pair are at the level required for Manchester United in the immediate future is another question entirely, but with their progression (which after all, is what loan spells are all about), then they’ll both make a really good fist of it. If I had to pick one, it’d be Sam, when considering his age.

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