The Iron were knocked out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the first round stage despite a good performance at Glanford Park.
The visitors squeaked through to the second round, requiring penalties to run out eventual 3-5 winners.
Scunthorpe made two changes from the weekend’s home encounter with Newport. Etienne Esajas replaced Terry Hawkridge and Jimmy Spencer came in to make his first start since joining on loan from Huddersfield.
Sheffield United managed much of the early possession of the ball, barring a couple of brief spells where Scunthorpe were able to play the ball around themselves.
The visitors created the first openings; down the Scunthorpe right, with full-back Tony McMahon breaking unnoticed and into space. His two crosses into the box weren’t accurate enough to cause any real problems though, with Joe Ironside the only target to find up top.
On ten minutes Scunthorpe opened up the visitors for the first time. Etienne Esajas wriggled free of two markers to feed Dawson on halfway, who then spread wide for Sparrow to chase out on the right. Sparrow was able to get to the by-line to cut a ball back across but Mark Howard between the Blades’ sticks met it comfortably.
With fifteen minutes played, Slocombe was forced into his first action of the game. Kyle McFadzean’s strike from just outside the area, coming in from the right flank was easy for him to smother, however.
Scunthorpe’s first effort on goal caused far more of a test for Sheffield United’s keeper. Christian Ribeiro broke at pace down the right, running at Tony McMahon. He twisted and turned, his cross deflecting off a Blades defender on the slide and into the path of Jimmy Spencer. The Huddersfield loanee mistimed his effort, the slice forcing the best out of Howard, backpedalling, to tip over.
From the resulting corner, Esajas held position back in space, about thirty yards out, for the training ground set piece. Not picked up, he was found, free to drive at goal but couldn’t steer his effort through the crowded penalty area, instead finding the back of a Blades defender.
During the middle third of the game, the Iron had fought back in the possession stakes and were showing more encouraging signs when venturing forward – Esajas and Riberio were both acting as good outlets on the break. With possession more even though, the two sides were cancelling each other out in terms of creating chances of real note.
Inside the final ten minutes of the half, McFadzean had a fantastic chance to put the visitors ahead. A long ball over the Scunthorpe back-line set him clear, his pace ensuring neither Canavan nor Mirfin could catch him. His effort at goal was wasteful though – a misjudged scoop way over the bar with just Slocombe to beat.
Aside from this one chance, Scunthorpe ended the half as the stronger side. Esajas had the opportunity to run at the Blades’ defence, but couldn’t find a way to slip through. His next involvement was an interchange with Dawson – who’d charged down the left to join a good spell in the final third. Dawson burst into the box and laid a cushioned ball back for Esajas to put into the box but the ball was taken off Winnall’s forehead by a good intervention from a United man.
After emerging from the break 0-0, Scunthorpe were doing their level best to start brightly and change that score line. Dawson had his heels planted on the touchline ready to receive the ball – eventually coming from Winnall after a well worked advance up the left side. Esajas had set off and Dawson fed the Dutchman with a dink in behind. The former Ajax youngster showed composure to check back when he might have shot to slot a pinpoint pass back to Winnall, arriving late on the penalty spot. On the slide, Winnall struck low, forcing an unconvincing, fumbled save from Howard – the Iron’s best opening of the game so far.
The next ten minutes were more stale, though Scunthorpe still held their own in possession of the ball. In the 65th minute Esajas received the ball from Sparrow in centre-field, 25 yards out, twisted onto his left and drove a foot past the keeper’s left post with Howard scrambling. Another half-chance. Sheffield United had replaced Ironside with Lyle Taylor and Jose Baxter entered the fray replacing Cuvelier.
The Iron continued their positive spell, again involving Esajas. His testing cross found Ribeiro after a header clear with the resulting cross becoming more of an effort on goal from the right back, forcing Howard to backpedal once more and palm the ball clear for a corner.
Brian Laws made his changes with roughly fifteen minutes to play. Terry Hawkridge replaced Esajas, continuing his return from injury and Deon Burton came on for Sam Winnall – the next ex-Wednesday to become a target for the Blades’ supporter’s jeers.
Just inside the last ten minutes Scunthorpe forced a corner after a dangerous break. Good work from Burton got the ball back to Hawkridge running from deep, shaping to shoot from the edge of the box, he instead slipped a pass out to Dawson on the overlap. His low cross, aiming for Spencer was blocked at the near post. The resulting Hawkridge set piece reached Spencer this time, after a strong leap but his header looped narrowly past the post.
Two minutes later, Hawkridge once more played the thorn in the side role, hassling then turning Westlake, showing him a clean pair of heels. He flicked a ball to Dawson, who’d run inside the chasing full back into the penalty area. Dawson then pulled a ball back but went down. The dinked return didn’t reach him and Spencer only narrowly failed to get there before keeper Howard. The Iron were certainly ending the game positively.
Despite the spell of good pressure at the end of the half, a half in which the Iron had limited their League One visitors to very little fruitful attacking play, Scunthorpe couldn’t prevent the game going to penalties.
Deon Burton, Andy Dawson and Terry Hawkridge stepped up to slot past Howard in front of the Blades support but Andy Welsh’s side foot effort was saved comfortably to his left by the Blades stopper. This meant Sheffield United went through to the second round 3-5 after scoring each of their efforts from the spot.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe, Ribeiro, Mirfin, Canavan, Dawson, Sparrow (Welsh, 88), Nolan, McAllister, Esajas (Hawkridge, 72), Spencer, Winnall (Burton, 72).
Substitutes not used: Severn, Waterfall.
Sheffield United: Howard,Westlake, McGuire, Collins, McMahon (McGinty, 72), Coady,Cuvelier (Baxter, 66), McGinn, Flynn, McFadzean, Ironside (Taylor, 60).
Substitutes not used: Willis, Eyre.