Our next visitors to St. James Park are 24th-placed Scunthorpe United. Despite us having home advantage and Scunthorpe being bottom of the league, we’re 13/8 underdogs with the bookies! I make 2 changes, with Catalin Rentea coming back in for Stephen Darby, whilst Niccolo Marchi is replaced by Jonny Hayes. Hector Cuper, Blackpool’s manager, is amongst the 8,631 in attendance – the media report that he’s interested in signing Bradley Johnson. The returning Rentea is involved in the first action when he goes off injured in the 11th minute; George King replaces him. Two minutes after Rentea goes off injured, Michel slides in Michele Marconi, but he shoots straight at Lillis from 16 yards. Bertin Matip takes an inswinging corner in the 27th minute and it’s met by Bradley Johnson’s head at the near post, but goes just wide of the far post. We continue to threaten and Hayes shoots just over from 20 yards with a free kick in the 34th minute. Scunthorpe do threaten in the 38th minute when Murdoch unleashes a howitzer from 18 yards, but thankfully for Bond it goes over. We continue to press – in the 43rd minute a Hayes cutback is met by Matip, but it goes just over from 16 yards, whilst in the 45th minute, Marconi plays in Dacian Varga, but he can only shoot tamely at Lillis from 10 yards; it’s a shame they couldn’t have swapped roles! Scunthorpe threaten again in stoppage time when O’Grady shoots from a tight angle on the right, but Bond is alert and gets down well to save at the near post and Gennaro Riccardi completes the clearance.
Two minutes after half time, Michel passes to Marconi and he fires past Lillis from 16 yards for his 22nd goal of the season. My half-time words evidently had the desired effect! Scunthorpe hit back three minutes later when Antonio gets on the end of a free-kick and scores from 10 yards. He runs off celebrating, but is soon stopped when he spots the linesman’s flag up for offside. It’s ruled out and we remain in the lead, but it’s a warning. Matip takes an outswinging corner in the 70th minute and Marconi hits the floor. The whistle goes and out comes a yellow card – it’s for Marconi for a dive. A minute later, O’Grady has a great opportunity from 18 yards, but he shoots wildly and the ball goes harmlessly wide. With eleven minutes to go, I make a double substitution as Jay Spearing comes on for Matip and Federico Cenci (making his 50th career league appearance) replaces Varga, which results in Sean Morrison taking the captain’s armband. Scunthorpe continue to look for an equaliser and in the 81st minute, Dicko shoots over from 16 yards from the left of the area. Cenci plays in Marconi in the 85th minute, but Lillis is able to parry his shot from 16 yards and Scunthorpe clear for a throw-in. With a minute to go, Dicko shoots from 16 yards and Bond can’t hold onto the ball, which runs loose in the penalty area. With Scunthorpe players closing, Johnson takes control and puts the ball behind for a corner and we hold on for a 1-0 victory. It’s not the margin of victory or the performance I wanted, but it’s 3 more points and keeps us 4th. Marconi is named Man of the Match with a rating of 7.4 and the game winning goal.
The physio reports on Catalin Rentea and it’s not good news; he’s strained knee ligaments and will be out for 7-8 weeks. There is good news on the injury front though as Jagos Vukovic returns to full training following his thigh strain. Bristol Rovers offer to loan Aaron Walker for 2 months and I accept, but he rejects the offer. Brighton and Hove Albion reveal to the media they are concerned Tony Mowbray may leave at the end of the season – the media make Gareth Southgate the favourite to fill any vacancy, but my name is also linked with the job. I welcome two more players on trial for a week – Chilean DM, M(LC) Hector Pizarro and Honduran DM/MC Deiby Mejia.