United drew 0-0 at Bristol Rovers in their first away league game of the season.
Scunthorpe only made one change after an impressive midweek performance in the League Cup at Oakwell with Nolan coming in to replace Andy Dawson.
The Iron perhaps worked the better chances with the woodwork saving the Gas twice in an otherwise even game which saw Laws’ men bring home a solid point and another clean sheet against a side that bookmakers are touting to be there or thereabouts come the end of the campaign.
The home side were the first to create, on three minutes with John Joe O’Toole showing his intentions early on with a break down the right. The attacking midfielder flicked over Nolan’s outstretched foot to create space for a cross. Ribeiro dealt with the ball comfortably, though, and Mirfin was equally cool in preventing the resulting corner from becoming a danger.
Rovers forced another corner with nine minutes played. Winnall was wrestled off the ball high up the pitch, leading to a break, again down the Gas right. A pass was played square for Clarkson to hit but Mirfin got his body behind the strike.
Rovers’ early momentum was abruptly halted with 13 minutes on the clock. Centre-back and skipper Tom Parkes went down after clashing with Deon Burton, both players fairly challenging for a high, cleared ball.
The defender required an extended period of treatment after appearing to fall unconscious and was eventually replaced by Alefe Santos with Lockyer shifting into the vacated centre back spot.
Scunthorpe’s ventures forward were largely coming down the right, through Ribeiro and Hawkridge. Ex-Bristol City man Ribeiro was felled at pace on an overlapping run, resulting in a booking for a Gas man, much to the aggrievance of the home support who needed no further excuse to get on the defender’s back.
The best chance inside the first half hour did come the Iron’s way. A corner bobbled free for Winnall at the back post, with keeper Mildenhall semi-stranded behind him, Winnall could spin but having been forced wide by the former Scunthorpe loanee, the best he could do was rattle the outside of the post on the turn.
Rovers responded, breaking after a defending an Iron free-kick. Clarkson fed Ellis Harrison, whose pace had been causing Scunthorpe problems down the Bristol right. The young winger was free but dallied on the ball though allowing Canavan to get across to cover.
Five minutes before half time it was Harrison again causing problems for the left side of the Iron defence. After carrying the ball a good thirty yards, his square pass found Clarkson who struck inches wide with Slocombe scrambling.
The Iron were the side that managed to end the half in the ascendancy. Winnall won two corners with good work down the left. The second corner was swung in towards Burton whose flick-header back towards the near post gave Winnall a chance to poke home on the turn but his effort was blocked on the line Lee Brown.
A minute later, the Rovers back-line invited Hawkridge to run onto them and the again-impressive winger took the invitation to have a go, smacking the post half—way up with a rasping effort from twenty-five yards. Mildenhall was beaten.
After a fairly even half overall, Scunthorpe had managed to create the better of the game’s chances and would go into the second period with a little bit of momentum.
With the second half underway, the Pirates again came out of the blocks brightly. A long ball hit first-time by O’Toole caused confusion between Slocombe and his defence with the ball holding up in the air.
Slocombe could only watch stranded on the edge of his area, requiring Canavan to act and cut across the Rovers man on the chase to prevent a costly mix-up.
In the 52nd minute, Scunthorpe once more came close to opening the scoring. Winnall worked space for a cross from deep on the left and found Burton unmarked. His nodded effort on goal required a fingertip from Mildenhall. From the resulting corner, Mirfin forced another fine save, this time down low, centre of goal. The loose ball fell at Winnall’s feet and the striker initiated a scramble with the Rovers ‘stopper grounded. It took the home side three bites of the cherry to clear with Iron boots swinging in a bid to dink the ball home.
Ten minutes later, after comfortably dealing with an attack from the home side, Hawkridge brought the ball clear and slid a pass through for McAllister who in-turn found Winnall running clear. The striker cut inside onto his left and instead of shooting he teed Collins up for an effort. The skipper bent one first time from 30-yards, only just over the bar.
With twenty minutes left Brian Laws decided to shake things up, with Burton and Winnall coming off to be replaced by Iwelumo and Matt Godden.
Both sides struggled to create anything of real note until the final five minutes. Good work from Michael Collins saw the midfielder break into the box past two Rovers men. He was forced wide of goal and could only pull back towards the edge of the box. McAllister battled to win the ball inside the “D” and did manage to get a shot away, wide of the post by just about a foot.
Neither side looked particularly likely to break the deadlock and Laws’ men earned themselves a point and yet another clean sheet, away at a side fancied to be up there at the end of the season.
Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall, Smith, Parkes, McChrystal, Brown, Locker, Norburn, O’Toole, Harrison (Hunter, 85), Clarkson (Harding 74), Richards.
Substitutes: Cough, Santos, Keary, Southway, Lucas.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe, Ribeiro, Mirfin, Canavan, Nolan, Hawkridge (Welsh, 80), Sparrow, Collins, McAllister, Winnall (Godden, 68), Burton (Iwelumo, 68).
Substitutes: Severn, Waterfall, Howe, Clark.
Attendance: 6,259 (248 away).