The Iron surrendered a half-time two-nil lead at AFC Wimbledon, as they succumbed to a late 3-2 defeat at the Cherry Red Records Stadium to suffer their first loss of the new campaign.
First-half goals from Sam Winnall and Chris Iwelumo had put Scunthorpe in complete control at the break, but a resurgent Dons took hold of the match in the second-half.
The hosts got the game underway, kicking from right-to-left, and carved out the first opportunity in the opening minute. Opting for a direct approach, a flick-on from Michael Smith found team-mate Luke Moore in the area, only for his tame effort to be gathered low by Slocombe.
Buoyed by their bright start, AFC Wimbledon continued to exert early pressure, and once again come close to opening the dead-lock. Having forced the first corner of the match down the Iron right, the resultant set-piece found Charlie Sheringham unmarked at the near-post, but the front-man could only direct his header over from close-range.
With six minutes on the clock, the Iron were awarded a first corner of their own after a cross from the left by Terry Hawkridge was deflected behind. However, they were unable to profit from the opportunity, and moments later an under-hit David Mirfin back-pass appeared to offer the home side a sight of goal before the Iron centre-back recovered to amend for his error and clear the danger.
The Wombles were beginning to create a number of decent opportunities, but lacked the quality in the final-third to punish Scunthorpe for their slightly sluggish start. Continuing in this vein, they made decent progress down the right-flank, Barry Fuller lost marker Andy Dawson in the penalty-area, but his low-cut back evaded the on-rushing strike-pairing of Sheringham and Smith.
Within seconds, the Iron made them pay for their profligacy. A seemingly innocuous ball into the area from Eddie Nolan in the right-back position was spilled by ‘keeper Worner under significant pressure from Chris Iwelumo, and Sam Winnall was on hand to bury the rebound from close-range to give Scunthorpe a 15th minute lead against the run of play.
Having taken the lead, the Iron gained confidence and began to assert themselves in midfield, with Iwelumo’s physicality causing problems in attack. However, on 22 minutes the home side were presented with a perfect opportunity to level the scores soon after going behind, when Niall Canavan was harshly adjudged to have handled Callum Kennedy’s cross from the left, with referee Richard Clark immediately pointing to the spot.
The Iron would have felt aggrieved to lose their lead in such a manner, and some would argue justice was done when Slocombe produced a superb save low to his right to deny Sheringham – son of on-looking former England star, Teddy – from twelve-yards much to the delight of the travelling supporters.
The visiting side looked to capitalise on their blend of good fortune and superb goal-keeping, and after a relative lull in play, did just that on the half-hour mark. Impressive passing in the build-up released Andy Welsh on the left, and his hanging cross was met by Iwelumo at the back-post who nodded into the unguarded net with Worner stranded to double the lron’s lead.
That goal spurred Wimbledon into a response as they looked to get a foot-hold in the game, and it was an attack down the right which once again appeared to be their most dangerous outlet, as they forced a corner which was eventually cleared after a brave block from Mirfin.
Immediately afterwards, The Iron came close to stretching their lead further. The marauding Nolan was found by a long cross-field diagonal on 38 minutes, but his ambitious first-time volleyed effort from the edge of the area sailed wide.
On 41 minutes, the Iron were forced into their first change of the match, when captain Michael Collins was replaced by Sean McAllister after being injured following a crunching tackle in the middle of the park, with Canavan taking over the captain’s arm-band. As the game moved into three minutes of injury-time at the end of the first-half, the visitors survived a late barrage to go into the interval with their hard-earned two-nil lead intact.
The second-half began in similar fashion to the first, with George Porter finding space behind Andy Dawson on the right before his low driven cross was eventually cleared for a corner as the hosts spurned another decent opportunity to get themselves back in the game.
Soon after, the Iron almost became the victims of their own undoing, when Slocombe’s hurried throw to the flanks went straight to Luke Moore mid-way inside the Scunthorpe half. However, a heavy first touch from Moore allowed Slocombe to recover admirably and rush out of his area to clear the danger.
On 53 minutes, the visitors had strong appeals for a penalty waved away by the officials when Winnall appeared to be pushed when chasing a long clearance over the top, with referee Clark deeming the challenge to be legal. It was Winnall again who was involved just two minutes later, rising highest to meet Nolan’s cross only to see his looping header fall off-target.
Those wasted opportunities would come back to haunt Scunthorpe just after the hour-mark, when Michael Smith showed excellent footwork and technique to calmly curl the ball past Slocombe from eighteen-yards when the Iron failed to clear a cross from Moore to offer Wimbledon a life-line.
The goal was met by an immediate increase in volume from the home fans, and their team responded in turn, attacking the Iron back-line with renewed vigour and purpose. A series of attacks culminated in a Dons over-lap down the left forcing a corner, but Scunthorpe defended resolutely to hold onto their advantage.
Both teams then made substitutions on 63 minutes, with Andy Welsh being replaced by James Spencer for the Iron. Meanwhile, Callum Kennedy and Charlie Sheringham were withdrawn in favour of Jack Midson and Chris Arthur.
Having wasted further chances to restore their two-goal lead through Winnall and Sparrow, Wimbledon took full advantage of the Iron’s inability to kill the game off with just over fifteen minutes remaining. As with the majority of their good play, it came through right-winger Porter – with his low cross not being cleared sufficiently, allowing Harry Pell to smash home from the angle on 73 minutes to level the scores.
The Iron looked to respond immediately, and Iwelumo’s physical presence forced a corner as the game entered the final ten minutes. After a period of pin-ball in the Dons penalty-area, McAllister clipped a delicate cross into the six-yard-box, where the ball fell to Sam Winnall who poked the ball past Worner only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
Not to be out-done, the hosts then forced two fine saves from Slocombe, with the latter resulting in a corner which once again wasn’t cleared sufficiently by the Iron defence. A fizzing shot across the face of goal by Moore almost reached the unmarked Porter six-yards out, but the pacy winger just failed to control with the goal at his mercy.
The game was becoming ever-more stretched, with both sides desperately seeking a winner. It was the Iron’s turn to come close to stealing the game next, with a right-footed drive from Hawkridge going just wide as the match moved towards a frantic finale. Once again, the Dons responded, and the galloping Pell drove wide from fifteen yards after bursting through midfield.
The home side took the opportunity to make their final change of the match, with Kevin Saint-Luce replacing the impressive George Porter on 85 minutes. Barely moments after coming on, Saint-Luce made an instant impact - skipping past his marker before finding Arthur, who promptly smashed home what would turn out to be the winning goal to complete the second-half comeback for a resurgent Dons side.
As the match moved into five minutes of injury time, the Iron gave Etienne Esajas a brief run-out in place of Sam Winnall, but the change was unable to salvage a point for the visitors as they slipped to their first defeat of the season despite late pressure on the Wimbledon goal.
AFC Wimbledon: Worner, Fuller (capt.), Kennedy (Arthur, 63), Moore, Frampton, Weston, Porter (Saint-Luce, 85), Pell, Smith, Sheringham (Midson, 63), Moore.
Substitutes not used: Brown, Francomb, Sweeney, Fenlon.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe, Dawson, Mirfin, Canavan, Sparrow, Iwelumo, Welsh (Spencer, 68), Hawkridge, Nolan, Collins (capt.) (McAllister, 43), Winnall (Esajas, 90).
Substitutes not used: Severn, Burton, Howe, Ribeiro.
Referee: Richard Clark (Northumberland)
Attendance: 3865 (328 away)