The Iron fell to a 2-0 defeat against high-flying Bristol City on Saturday.
United performed well and created the better openings in the first period through Gary McSheffrey and Paddy Madden but couldn’t find the back of the net. The hosts took their chance midway through the second half through an Aden Flint header at the back post. Canavan then replied with an effort that was poked off the line by Frank Fielding between the Bristol City sticks. City’s second, from youngster Greg Cunningham late on put pay to the Iron’s chances of a point.
Russ Wilcox made two changes from the Johnstone's Paint Trophy victory over Chesterfield on Tuesday evening - Eddie Nolan recovered from a knock to take the right back berth and Marcus Williams joined him in the first eleven in place of Terry Hawkridge.
The club were looking to string back-to-back wins together in the league for the first time this season, after two positive performances on the bounce with victories over Walsall and Chesterfield in league then cup. United retained the 4-2-3-1 used in the past two outings with McSheffrey utilised behind Madden, in a role he’s thrived in.
Bristol City boss Steve Cotterill has been able to retain many of the players he had at his disposal in the second tier last season following relegation from the Championship. The club have pushed and strengthened over the summer with additions such as Luke Freeman, a past England youth international from Stevenage as well as Kieran Agard – the free-scoring ex-Rotherham winger who turned down Leeds United.
City started brightly. Inside a minute, United were under pressure down the left, forcing them into a rushed clearance which Wade Elliott was able to intercept and feed into Aaron Wilbraham. The big striker jinked inside Canavan before tumbling to the ground inside the box. Referee Breakspear saw nothing, waving play on. The move broke down after McSheffrey went down in the Iron area halting play, to the derision of the home support.
After a busy opening five minutes, United stood fast; resilient amidst some good passing play and effective running from City. With fourteen minutes on the clock, the Iron broke with Adelakun down the right to initiate a spiky counter. McSheffrey fed McAllister who broke from deep into a good position in City’s vacated right-back slot. He cut back to McSheffrey, in yards of space but uncharacteristically for the attacking midfielder of late, he dragged his effort wide.
Bristol City fought right back. From the goal kick, the break was at some pace with Joe Byran down the Iron left. His ball into the box was good, finding Wilbraham on the corner of the 6-yard box. The striker turned deftly and fired with a snapshot at Olejnik. The big Austrian sprawled to block with a toe at his near post.
The Robins continued a good spell of pressure in the minutes following that Wilbraham chance but failed to capitalise. Olejnik was called upon again from a Wilbraham header after good work from Luke Freeman in centre field to spray wide, opening things up for the cross. The former Arsenal and Stevenage attacker was impressing in a free role right across the pitch.
Despite more sustained possession from the hosts, as was perhaps to be expected, United were creating chances of their own at the other end and were unlucky not to take the lead. McSheffrey went within an inch of opening the scoring on 18 minutes. The midfielder jinked from the left corner of the box, taking two Bristol men out of the game. He steadied and hit one with venom, crashing Fielding’s left upright after fizzing across the face of goal.
The side in red again responded following the chance but with two more speculative efforts, both from Derrick Williams from distance in the 19th minute. Olejnik had things covered.
United started to express themselves and assert themselves more as the game progressed. Past twenty minutes, possession became more even and the Iron were able to really push into the final third. On 23 minutes, Madden was set free through the middle by an intelligent Bishop ball. His effort was taken early, with Fielding scrambling. The keeper fumbled but pounced before Madden could reach the ball. The City ‘stopper was more assured three minutes later in dealing with a low cross from McAllister after a good Scunthorpe break down the left. Madden was again waiting to profit.
City kept nagging at United with their patient build up play, however. Tricky work by Elliott worked room for the former Burnley winger to find Freeman, again in space. The midfielder’s low drive was palmed wide by Olejnik. Agard arrived to meet the loose ball but his ball in was dealt with consummately. Two corners in the same spell were dealt with well by Wilcox’s men allowing United to come again on 35 minutes.
Llera poked the ball away from Agard wide on the right, into the path of Adelakun. The youngster played a crisp pass into McSheffrey in the centre circle who in turn played a wonderful outside-of-the-boot pass to Madden to get the striker off the shoulder of his man and bearing down on goal once more. The effort again had to be rushed, however – skewed wide off the outside of his right with the close attention of his marker forcing his hand. Scunthorpe looked more than threatening on the counter.
As the half drew to a close, Sean McAllister went down following a hefty collision on half-way, this wound time down with City the only side to muster any further forward momentum – just a speculative long-range effort from Wade Elliott.
A blank score line at half time looked positive all things considered, particularly with the threat United were carrying on the counter attack through Madden and McSheffrey, again thriving in the hole. For all Bristol’s work, it was the Iron who’d fashioned the better openings and Russ’ men were perhaps unlucky not to go in one to the good.
The second half almost got underway in the worst possible fashion for the Iron. Korey Smith picked the ball up midway inside United territory and struck low. Olejnik looked to have everything behind it but the ball crept from his grasp and between his legs, requiring him to spin around and hack the ball away from the line.
United’s response was to string two excellent passing moves together. The interchange between McSheffrey, Dawson, Bishop and Madden was perfectly executed, working the opening for the latter to turn and strike on goal. Flint’s body was well behind the effort however and City cleared.
On 51 minutes the deadlock was broken, despite all the Iron’s positive play. Aden Flint, just having blocked a Madden effort at the other end, looped a header at the back post over Olejnik and Llera on the line following a swirling in swinging corner. The header looked innocuous but just had the direction to cause the damage.
After five minutes of City surging post-opener, United created a glaring opening in response. Adelakun weedled his way into the box down the right edge and picked his ball with time to think. It looked incredibly inviting, right across the face with Madden and McSheffrey in and around the 6-yard box. Russ Wilcox held his arms aloft as neither made the gamble despite the invitation. Bishop’s effort from the edge of the ‘D’ was deflected over, relieving the pressure on the hosts.
United came again on 63 minutes. McSheffrey again did well to wriggle past two on half way before driving forward and playing into Madden. The striker opened up to curl an effort from the edge of the box; narrowly wide once more after a deflection. Possession was equally distributed at this stage, with both sides carrying a threat. McSheffrey and Madden’s latest forward move proved United were still well in the hunt.
The Robins, too, always remained a threat in the game. With 69 minutes gone, a good challenge on halfway by Joe Byran on McAllister set Wilbraham on his way, two on three. The striker found Agard alongside him who was met by Llera, blocking his first effort despite the drop of the shoulder. The rebound fell to the predatory attacker, who instinctively curled first time towards the far corner. Olejnik did well to tip round.
On 71 minutes, the Iron boss opted to shake things up. Lyle Taylor and Myrie-Williams replaced Madden and Adelakun respectively. Instantly, the former had an impact. His driving run beat the offside trap down the right flank allowing the striker to win a corner off his man. McSheffrey hung it up to the centre of the 6-yard box where Canavan powered a header on goal. Fielding stuck out a leg on the line with Llera beside him to poke to safety.
In similar fashion, United cleared a corner away five minutes later. Olejnik punched unconventionally, off his back foot under pressure as a corner and header threatened to put City two up. His punch was vertical, as was Bishop’s clearance on the second attempt. A combination of Llera and Canavan, amongst others, jumped to scramble clear. In the next attack, Canavan did well to come across and clear – preventing Agard from striking following a flick on from midfield with Olejnik off his line.
The Robins took their next opportunity with aplomb though with 83 minutes on the clock. Greg Cunningham, a former Manchester City youth, took to the field to replace Joe Byran. Luke Freeman poked a ball wide to the left edge of the box into the youngster who smashed home with his first touch, across Olejnik, to effectively snuff out any hopes of Scunthorpe gaining a point.
Five minutes later, Wagstaff found himself running clear on goal, beyond the back line with Llera the nearest Iron shirt in pursuit. Olejnik did excellently to spread himself and stay on his feet to save one-on-one.
With time ebbing away and three minutes indicated as stoppage time, substitute Billy Kee headed narrowly over and Llera was called into making an excellent interception to prevent a City man running free. The hosts wound things down and saw out a comfortable last quarter-hour to take all three points.
Bristol City: Fielding, Little, Williams, Flint, Smith, Elliott, Freeman, Wilbraham (Emannuel-Thomas, 85), Agard (Wagstaff, 81), Ayling, Bryan (Cunningham, 81).
Substitutes not used: Richards, Osborne, El-Abd, Pack.
Scunthorpe United: Olejnik, Nolan, Llera, Canavan, Dawson, Adelakun (Myrie-Williams, 71), Bishop, McAllister (Kee, 81), Williams, McSheffrey, Madden (Taylor, 71).
Substitutes: Weaver, Sparrow, Hawkridge, Boyce.
Attendance: 12,007 (243 away).