A 1-1 draw was the outcome of United’s clash with play-off chasing Walsall at Glanford Park on Saturday.
Before a crowd of 4,049 spectators, Will Grigg’s second-half prod put the visitors ahead; before Niall Canavan bundled home a late equaliser for Scunthorpe.
Even so, the Iron drifted to two points from safety, thanks to Oldham’s win over Bury.
Ahead of the fixture - played on a somewhat muggy Lincolnshire afternoon – Brian Laws elected to make four tactical changes to the Iron side that was humbled 3-0 at Preston North End the previous weekend.
The quartet of Eddie Nolan, Paul Reid, Anthony Forde and Karl Hawley returned to the starting eleven; in place of Christian Ribiero, David Mirfin, Andy Barcham and Akpo Sodje, whom had all started the loss at Deepdale.
That meant that United, playing in an attack-minded 4-4-2 formation, commenced the game with Matt Godden and Karl Hawley spearheading their offensive movement; supported by a midfield of (from left-to-right) Anthony Forde, Michael Collins, Jimmy Ryan
and Mark Duffy.
Tom Newey, Niall Canavan, Paul Reid and Eddie Nolan collaboratively formed the Scunthorpe defence; with Eirik Holmen Johansen starting between the sticks.
For Walsall, meanwhile, the big piece of team news was the omission their centre-back, captain and undisputed Iron legend Andy Butler from their matchday squad due to injury.
Another former-Iron did appear in their team, however, in the form of last season’s loanee goalkeeper Sam Johnstone; and up top, one of League One’s most in-form players - Will Grigg - started as the Saddlers’ main striker.
The match started with United setting their stall out to attack, no doubt with the intention of grabbing an early goal so as to settle any nerves and to put themselves in the driving seat in the process.
Within the first minute, Matt Godden glanced a header wide after Johnstone had strayed off his line, and in the next ten or so minutes the Iron continued to press. Unfortunately, however, despite launching a series of crosses into the box and winning two corners – the second of which Niall Canavan connected with – the Iron couldn’t fashion an effort at the Walsall goal.
The visitors made their first impression upon the game when Febian Brandy placed a shot towards the bottom-corner of the Iron’s goal with about eight minutes played - just as the match’s tempo began to settle. The quick and tricky player took possession about halfway up Scunthorpe’s half, and after sprinting into the area and tricking his way around Tom Newey, squeezed in his unlikely shot - only for Johansen to make a comfortable, low save.
After that, the game hit a more sustained lull, with each side settling down and defending cautiously. In fact, Michael Collins having to change a shirt which he bloodied whilst battling for an aerial challenge was about as entertaining as it got until Mark Duffy picked up the ball on the right-wing twenty minutes in, started dashing towards the byline, and sent in a vicious cross which nobody in claret and blue gambled upon.
As time ticked on further, United applied more intermittent pressure, as first Karl Hawley was first slipped in on the right, and after cutting into the area fired a low-shot towards the near-post of Johnstone’s goal, which the goalkeeper was equal to.
A corner followed which Mark Duffy struck into the box, but again, United were unable to work an effort at goal from it. They then came close to opening the scoring shortly afterwards later when they won a free-kick on the left that the energetic Duffy whipped in deep towards the back-post where Paul Reid had ghosted into an unmarked position. The Iron captain met the ball with his head, and would have found the net were it not for an unconventional, star jump-based save from Sam Johnstone.
A further huge chance then came and went on the stroke of half-time for the Iron, as from the wing Anthony Forde tucked the ball inside to the feet of Matt Godden, who was lurking about eight-yards out.
The young striker then showed great instinct to quickly hit a wedged shot at goal which comfortably eclipsed the oncoming Johnstone – but it cleared the bar too. And in reality, that was the last chance of a relatively encouraging first-half Scunthorpe performance – a performance which saw them clapped enthusiastically off the pitch as the whistle of referee David Phillips went to signal the interval.
With United playing towards their own fans in the second period, they once again came out with the intention of attacking. But they were nearly caught out on the counter-attack within a couple of minutes when Febian Brandy picked the ball up in the middle of the pitch and charged forcefully towards the Iron’s area. When he reached its edge, he played the sly ball across towards Craig Westcarr, who had pulled clear on his right; only for the striker to be beaten to the ball by the alert Eirik Holmen Johansen. But make no mistake - had the Walsall man reached it first – he would have scored.
Scunthorpe failed to take heed of the warning sign that that chance presented by tightening up at the back, however, and in the 55th minute paid the price as Will Grigg – something of a nemesis for the Iron – prodded the Midlands outfit ahead.
That was after Craig Westcarr had probed down the wing and cut into the area on the right, before squaring the ball into the six-yard box. There, Grigg beat stranded goalkeeper Johansen to the ball, and fired high into the net with his boot.
Immediately, Brian Laws sensed that something had to be done, and made two attacking changes. Mike Grella and Akpo Sodje were introduced; with Anthony Forde and Karl Hawley replaced. However, it seemed that the damage was already done.
The goal had prompted a shift in atmosphere at Glanford Park, and Walsall were thriving. Suddenly, they were able to string passes together, and looking more like a team on the verge of making the play-offs this year. Notably, Perkins’s cross was met by Grigg’s head just minutes after Walsall took the lead, and really nearly doubled his team’s advantage.
Just as things were starting to look superlatively precarious with the visiting team becoming increasingly dominant, United finally managed to make another opportunity of note with around fifteen minutes remaining.
Mark Duffy bombed into the area on the left, and then flicked the ball inside for Matt Godden, whom was placed on the penalty spot. He took a touch to bring down the knee-high ball, but rather than shooting, elected to flick the ball on once more, to Mike Grella, whom he deemed to be in a better position than himself over on the right.
As it materialised he wasn’t, however, as the striker took a touch too many to bring the ball under control, meaning that two Walsall defenders were able to surround him before he could even contemplate a shot.
After another lengthy period of Much Ado About Nothing, United clawed their way back into the match three minutes from time.
Niall Canavan was relocated to attack, as United changed to a 3-4-3 formation – and the conventional defender immediately made his mark – sending a drooping header into the Walsall net after a superb Mike Grella cross. It sparked a sense of belief around the park, and was the backdrop for a grandstand finale.
Indeed, after that, it was as end-to-end as you could imagine. United won the ball back from kick-off, and soon had a corner. That was cleared, and Febian Brandy then drew a fantastic save out of Eirik Holmen Johansen with a four-yard drive up the other end.
Three minutes were then added, but it ultimately proved too short a period for United to claim the victory that they so desperately sought.
Johansen, Nolan, Reid, Canavan, Newey, Duffy, Ryan, Collins, Forde (Grella 63), Hawley (Sodje 63), Godden.
Substitutes not used:
Slocombe, Ribeiro, Mirfin, Gibbons, Alabi.
Johnstone, Purkiss, Downing, Holden, J Chambers, A Chambers, Mantom, Paterson, Westcarr (Baxendale 85), Grigg, Brandy.
Substitutes not used:
Roberts, Featherstone, Hemmings, Bowerman, Benning, Sawyers.
Iron Bar and sponsors' man of the match: