United held ground, retaining top spot, in a feisty stalemate against fellow promotion-chasers Fleetwood Town in a game that could have easily gone either way.
Sam Slocombe gained the plaudits on his 100th appearance for the club after saving a Steven Schumacher penalty midway through the second half, playing more than his part in keeping Town at bay.
Iron manager Russ Wilcox decided to shake things up at fullback following Dagenham and Redbridge's comeback on Saturday afternoon following a torrential downpour. Eddie Nolan returns to his natural right-back berth with Marcus Williams dropping back down-field to fill the left-back spot, allowing Gary McSheffrey to make his first start for United.
Deon Burton marked his 600th appearance as a professional last time out but suffered a occurrence of a calf problem, bringing Paul Hayes back into the starting eleven.
Fleetwood turned Burton over 4-2 at the weekend in the day's late kickoff extending their run to four wins on the spin to become the division's form side. Former Iron Jon Parkin took to the bench, leaving top-scorer Ball the task of finding the net for the Cod Army – something he's managed on eight occasions so far this season.
After the opening five minutes where both sides had struggled to nail down meaningful possession, things started to settle down somewhat. United were the first to show their hand going forward, using the right flank particularly well. Low crosses from Nolan and Hawkridge were well defended at the near post by Nathan Pond before a nice cross-field move involving the Iron's midfield in its entirety led to the first shot on target – a half-volley from Eddie Nolan swallowed by Scott Davies.
Town's stopper was on his toes once more, just a minute later to tip a well hit, dipping Winnall strike over the bar after Paul Hayes had clipped over the top to set the League Two top-scorer free and bearing down on the box.
Fleetwood had exhibited a pressing game in the first quarter, penning the Iron in when in possession. Both fullbacks were nearly caught out deep in their own territory as a direct result. The visitors' pressure game then allowed them to capitalise with their maiden effort on goal. Murdoch was able to fire from 25-yards after his side had hurried Scunthorpe into losing out. Syers stood firm to make the block.
On 18 minutes, Town again showed signs that ought to have warned the Iron back line. A quick counter left Mirfin one on one with his man. The centre-back recovered well, after hesitating, to block on the slide. In the same move, Roberts arrived late, evading the linesman's flag, to volley wide from a return ball following a corner, defended well initially by United. A third corner landed perilously inside the 6-yard box after a glance on from Canavan. Mirfin and Hayes were there – the striker lashing behind to safety at the opportune moment before quizzing his team-mates as to how the situation arose.
The last portion of the half began to bear more fruit for Scunthorpe who regained their earlier ability to damage Fleetwood down the flanks. The away side had managed to garner control of United's wide-play through energetic closing. With the half wearing on, United sought to retake the initiative. First, patient play from both Nolan and Hawkridge gave the Iron the chance to work in the final third to McSheffrey and Hawkridge. Both looked to cross early. Hawkridge wriggling into the area and McSheffrey to the byline. Decisive defending saw the visitors to safety on both occasions though, near-post clearances well made – Pool commanding.
Town, though, almost had the last say as the half drew to a close. Just as a minute's added time was announced a ball over the top flummocksed the Iron back-line – Canavan looking for an offside that never arrived. Ball was in and clear as a result. His effort, however, lacked composure – odd for the side's top scorer who this time dragged well wide. A let off right at the end of a half that the visitor's had the better off – certainly giving the Iron fair warning about what they were up against on the evening.
Fleetwood brought Junior Brown into the fray in place of Alex Marrow and proceeded to grasp the initiative in the opening blows of the second half. Town's midfield, combined with attacking full-backs, outnumbered United in centre-field. Extra men, on multiple occasions, allowed the visitors to force Scunthorpe back, win second balls and force the issue. Eight-goal top-scorer David Ball showed fleet of foot to cut Canavan out of the game deep inside the penalty area after a penetrating ball from out wide. Canavan's central-defensive partner, Dave Mirfin was alive to the danger, coming across to nick the ball away to safety, to Canavan's relief.
On the hour, Scunthorpe had regained some authority. McSheffrey, Hayes and Hawkridge were more involved, coming deeper to create, aiming to compete with Fleetwood's extra bodies in midfield. The former forced a corner after waltzing across the visitors penalty box, winning a corner which he almost scored directly from. Davies had to scurry across to spare his blushes.
Up the other end, on 61 minutes, Charlie Taylor – on loan from Leeds United, made a break down the left flank before jinking inside Hawkridge, winning a soft penalty off the winger's standing leg, much to the ire of the home support. Justice was dealt with aplomb by Sam Slocombe, saving down low to his right with two strong wrists to defy Schumacher from the spot.
Russ Wilcox took the opportunity to make a change with twenty-five minutes to play, following Schumacher's saved penalty. Hakeeb Adelakun replaced Gary McSheffrey while Schumacher himself was withdrawn in favour of Antoni Sarcevic. Jon Parkin also took to the field with Mandron heading for the bench. The Frenchman had proved a handful in the air and on the ground. Parkin's more predictable threat may have been welcomed by Mirfin and Canavan.
Sarcevic almost made his presence felt within five minutes of arriving on the field of play. With 72 minutes on the clock, the midfielder battered across goal from right to left forcing Slocombe into another goal-saving intervention with a palm to safety.
Running into the last ten minutes the game had become scrappy. United, however, looked more likely to make something happen. Adelakun opened his box of tricks to sneak past Murdoch and into the box. His pull back was blocked at the near post, into the path of Paul Hayes. Hayes' strike was fierce, straight into a Town man amid shouts of 'penalty' from the home support and players alike as it looked to strike an arm inside the area.
Referee Scott Duncan had let little go throughout the match, and the game suffered as a result. Both sides struggled in gaining forward momentum and the visitors began to run the clock down with five minutes remaining. Inside those last five minutes, Paddy Madden showed why he claimed the title of League One's top-scorer last season with a shot out of nothing from distance. Davies flapped but did just enough.
It was all Iron as the clock wound down. With a minute to play, two free-kicks nearly yielded the breakthrough. Hayes narrowly failed to get on the end of a Madden knockdown and Hawkridge's ball created a scramble inside Town's box. Both situations were just about adequately dealt with by the Fleetwood defence. With three minutes added on, Town were able to hang on despite late Iron pressure, seeing the Iron draw their third on the spin.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe, Nolan, Mirfin, Canavan, Williams, Hawkridge, McAllister, Syers, McSheffrey (Adelakun, 64), Winnall (Madden, 76), Hayes.
Substitutes not used: Severn, Ribeiro, Sparrow, Waterfall, Collins.
Fleetwood Town: Davies, Murdoch, Roberts, Pond, Schumacher (Sarcevic, 64), Goodall, McLaughlin, Taylor, Ball, Mandron (Parkin, 66), Marrow (Brown, 45).
Substitutes not used: Maxwell, Evans, Hogan, Cresswell,
Attendance: 3,005 (57 away).