The last few years have been cataclysmic for Scunthorpe, suffering back-to-back relegations plagued with financial issues and power-hungry, gluttonous chairmen. However, things look to finally be stabilising, with the Iron looking to bounce back to the National League at the first time of asking. They host Bishop Stortford at Glandford Park on Saturday, hoping to close the gap on leaders Tamworth.
After David Hilton purchased the club in the summer and seriously strengthened the squad, promising a return to the Football League, things seemed too good to be true. This, unfortunately, appeared to be the case. Things turned sour, with Hilton issuing banning orders and sending threatening texts to those who dared speak out about his shambolic running of the club. In a final act of pettiness, Hilton decided to withdraw funding from the club, leaving them in dire straits.
Michelle Harness purchased the club in early October, and stability is slowly returning to Glandford Park. In the two home games since her acquisition of the club, Scunthorpe edged out Brackley 1-0 before demolishing Ji-place Spennymoor 6-0, demonstrating the strength that Jimmy Dean’s side possesses.
Before the season started, many claimed that this current crop of Scunthorpe players was one of the most talented to ever grace the National League North. This, coupled with the sheer size of the club, pointed towards the sixth tier being a walk in the park for The Iron, but it has been anything but. However, with things looking up for Scunthorpe, don’t be surprised to see them run riot at the top of the league.
On Saturday, they host a Bishop Stortford side that sits second bottom of the league after five defeats on the bounce. Despite being based in the London Metropolitan Area, on the border of Hertfordshire and Essex, Bishop Stortford ply their trade in the National League North. This had led to them struggling on their travels due to the excessive amount of travelling for the semi-professional outfit.
Steve Smith’s side enjoyed a stellar 2022–23 campaign, winning the Isthmian Premier League with 88 points. There was immense disappointment at having been placed in the National League North due to the financial implications that long journeys up north would have on a semi-professional side. This has been evident in their away results.
The Blues' opening away game saw them draw 1-1 with Gloucester, who are currently 22nd. Since then, it has been downhill for Bishop Stortford. Defeats to Brackley (1-0), Spennymoor (1-0), Chorley (2-1), and Hereford (1-0) showed they were keeping it tight, but the last few results will worry the Bishop Stortford faithful.
A 3-1 away FA Cup replay defeat to a Biggleswade side two divisions below was followed up by the aforementioned 1-0 defeat to Hereford, and then defeats to Southport (2-3), Blyth Spartans (3-0), Warrington (1-4), and Kings Lynn (3-2) have highlighted Smith’s side's defensive fragility. On top of this, they were also defeated 1-4 at home by 15th-place Rushall Olympic a few weeks before.
Things don’t seem right behind the scenes at Bishop Stortford, with Billy Cracknell, Ayo Shogbeni, Kyran Clements, and Rob Howard all departing, despite Howard and Shogbeni excelling so far and Clements just joining.
All of these factors, coupled with the long journey (6-hour round trip—300+ miles), mean Bishop Stortford could be in for a long day—in more ways than one.
Scunthorpe have shown they are capable of some big results. They’ve beaten Spennymoor 6-0, South Shields 3-1, Scarborough 4-1, Rushall 0-3, and Darlington 4-0. Do not be surprised to see Scunthorpe run riot again on Saturday.
With everything mentioned, I will be taking a ‘ladder’ bet on this game. This means I will be placing 50% of my stake on the lowest odds bet, then 25% on the next and 25% on the last. As I was writing this article, Bet365 pulled the market. However, SkyBet still has the market, so you can take the bet with them.
Scunthorpe 3+ goals: 2.75
Scunthorpe: 4+ goals – 5.5
Scunthorpe 5+ goals: 13.0
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