The Iron secured a crucial win in their hunt for the Vanarama National League North title as they secured a 1-0 win over play-off hopefuls Southport.
United returned to league action for an encounter against a play-off pushing Southport side that are led by Jim Bentley who has completely turned the Sandgrounders form since his arrival in early September. With a win United had the chance to regain their spot at the summit of the National league North table.
Scunthorpe manager Jimmy Dean made three changes to the starting XI that comfortably saw off Darlington 2-0 at the weekend to advance to the next round of the Isuzu FA Trophy. Centre-back Will Evans was forced to miss the encounter through suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season and was replaced by vice-captain Andrew Boyce. In other news ever-consistent left-back Tyler Denton and talented winger Jason Law regained their positions in the starting line-up, replacing Michael Kelly who was forced off with an injury at the weekend and Callum Roberts, who dropped to the bench.
In-form playmaker Jacob Butterfield got the game underway for the Iron, looking to continue his impressive goal contribution so far this campaign that sees him with nine contributions in his last nine games. The opening 10 minutes of affairs were dominated by United, as Dean’s squad looked more than content to allow the ball to do the work and knock the ball around the travelling Sandgrounders.
The first chance of the game was crafted by Butterfield who found himself in an all too familiar position 25-yards from goal with time and space to pick his spot. His strike sent shot-stopper Chris Renshaw lurching to his right, although the former Everton keeper was left untroubled as the ball crept wide of the target.
In the minutes that followed, Southport had their own sighter from range through advanced midfielder Josh Hmami, who unleashed a dipping effort from range that, despite curving wildly, failed to trouble Ross Fitzsimons between the Iron posts.
United were the next team to trouble either side’s goalkeeper, and it was through recently impressive right-back Ross Barrows who attempted to turn an effort goalward after a dangerous ball from Butterfield was failed to be cleared by a crowd of yellow bodies. Barrows’ turn and attempted finish was cleared away from goal by an outstretched boot.
With the game hanging in the balance, a flurry of chances ensued as the half drew toward its close. Numerous long ranged efforts from the Iron were blocked by desperate Southport defending, and this allowed the visitors to come close with a fast-paced counter attack that swept from one end from the field to the other. The attack swiftly fizzled out as again Hmami’s side-footed effort wrapped around the wrong side of Fitzsimons’s half in what would be the last notable action of the affairs in the first half.
With the game back underway, the Iron were attacking the Britcon Stand, and were looking to inject some life into the fixture given its lacklustre first half. Southport came into the second period of play much more attack minded than the first placing United under vast amounts of pressure immediately. The constant waves of pressure meant that mistakes were inevitable, when it arrived following a poor pass from the back Brad Holmes was able to fire a snapshot that was comfortably claimed by Fitzsimons.
The next chance was awarded to United as Butterfield again came close from distance as his bullet esque strike from the edge of the area was seen late by Renshaw, who managed to palm the ball up in the air with a unconventional stop that striker Danny Whitehall latched onto with a header that crashed against the woodwork while being punched to the ground by Renshaw, although it was unseen by the referee.
With a goal on the cards, it was found by the Iron. After a large deflection that had followed a deep cross into the area, the ball found its way to man-mountain central defender Max Kouogun who with the finish of a striker smashed the ball past Renshaw to claim his first goal in claret and blue while nearly taking the netting off in the process.
Now with a one goal advantage, Scunthorpe seemed intent to push on for a second with time ebbing away quicker than the visitors would’ve hoped. The score came close to being doubled on several occasions with the closest coming as a result of the expert trickery of Heart of Midlothian loanee Connor Smith. He wriggled expertly through a crowd of Sandgrounders, however his effort was comfortably pushed away by Renshaw, who was more than keeping his side in the tie.
Renshaw’s heroics proved to no avail for his side as they weren’t able to find an equaliser within the six minutes of allocated injury time. Referee Luis Griffiths blew his whistle to signal a hard-fought victory for the Iron that sees them extend their home victory streak to six wins in succession.
IRON: Fitzsimons, Kouogun, Boyce, Clunan, Butterfield (Shrimpton, 78), Scales, Smith, Law, Denton, Barrows (Roberts, 45), Whitehall (Elliott, 67).
IRON SUBS: Wilson, Jenkins.