An injury-time strike from 10-man Wycombe prevented the Iron from taking all three points in an enthralling encounter at Adams Park.
Deon Burton had put United ahead early in the second-half, only for a 96th minute header from Leon Johnson to salvage a point for the home side – who had midfielder Josh Scowen sent off with 20 minutes remaining.
Caretaker manager Russ Wilcox made one change from the side which saw off Torquay United at Glanford Park a fortnight ago, with Hakeeb Adelakun promoted to the starting line-up in place of Reuben Noble-Lazarus – who was ruled out with a groin injury.
The game also came too soon for both Andy Dawson and Matt Sparrow, while Michael Collins was side-lined with a calf injury as Etienne Esajas returned to the bench. Meanwhile, new addition Andrew Boyce was named as an Iron substitute for the first time since completing his switch from Lincoln City in November.
Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth made four changes to the team which narrowly lost to Preston North End in the FA Cup second round last weekend, with Leon Johnson, Nick Arnold, Sam Wood and Steven Craig all recalled. Dropped to the bench in their favour were Dean Morgan and Billy Knott, while Charles Dunne and Marvin McCoy missed out completely as the Chairboys looked to end a run of six games without a win in all competitions.
United dominated the opening minutes of play, and earned the first corner of the match in the second minute when Hawkridge’s attempted cross was blocked behind by the home defence. The resultant delivery from the Iron right was cleared only as far as Adelukan on the edge of the area, but the wingers deflected shot was gathered with ease by Wycombe goalkeeper Matt Ingram.
Four minutes later the home side threatened for the first time themselves when the scampering Sam Wood found space down the left flank before cutting the ball back across the box dangerously. However, David Mirfin was on hand to clear and the Iron soon came within inches of taking an early lead – with Deon Burton’s low cross from the right just evading the on-rushing Sam Winnall in the six-yard-box.
In the 10th minute the trickery and pace of Paris Cowan-Hall down the right flank gave the former Iron winger the room to pick out a cross, but Mirfin was alert to the danger once more. United were not so sound defensively three minutes later however, when Matt McClure was allowed to race through the middle unchecked only to then send his shot wide of Sam Slocombe’s post from a one-on-one situation.
With 16 minutes on the clock, Eddie Nolan’s precise pass found Adelakun and the pacey winger beat two men before being outnumbered as he advanced into the final third. The hosts were quick to counter, and switched the play swiftly across midfield to left-winger Wood who fired straight at Slocombe from the edge of the area as the United back-line rushed across to close him down.
The warning signs for the Iron continued in the 19th minute as another tidy passing move from the hosts ended in Wood moving the ball to Cowan-Hall, whose driven effort was deflected behind for a corner. The set-piece wasn’t dealt with convincingly by the away side, but after a brief melee in the penalty-area they managed to successfully see the ball out for a goal-kick.
On 25 minutes Slocombe cleanly gathered a teasing cross from the Wycombe right before swiftly releasing the ball to David Syers as he looked to start an Iron attack from base camp. The move broke down as it reached the half-way line, and referee Fred Graham then called a halt in play to issue Christian Ribeiro with the first yellow card of the afternoon – although United fans and players alike appeared mystified as to the indiscretion seemingly committed.
Ribeiro would be involved in more positive fashion four minutes later as he played the ball into the path of Adelakun on the right. The Iron academy product showed quick feet to create an opportunity, before fizzing an effort into the chest of Ingram – with the Wycombe goalkeeper gathering the spinning ball at the second attempt.
An increasingly combative affair then saw the ever-determined Sean McAllister win successive duels on halfway just after the half-hour mark as his side began to assume control of midfield. It was McAllister who would next go close for United five minutes later, with the diminutive midfielder sending a skidding effort wide after a Terry Hawkridge free-kick from the right was cleared only as far as the edge of the box.
Four minutes before the interval the home side were forced into their first change of the encounter, with Steven Craig unable to shake off the after-effects of a heavy tackle in midfield and being replaced by Dean Morgan in attack. Not long after play had restarted Deon Burton sent a header just wide from a deep cross from the United right, before Wood’s ambitious volley from distance bounced comfortably into the arms of Slocombe.
In the final minute of injury-time at the end of the opening period typically industrious work from Winnall earned his side a corner, only for the delivery to be cleared with ease by the Wanderers defence. That marked the end of the first-half action, with United going into the break level after an evenly-contested first 45 minutes in Buckinghamshire.
Having been frustrated at times throughout the first-half, United started the second in dream fashion by taking the lead at the earliest opportunity. Having won a free-kick wide on the right in the 47th minute, Hawkridge’s delivery was never properly cleared and the ball was eventually laid back to McAllister by Winnall. The midfielder’s left-footed deflected effort from distance fell kindly to the unmarked Burton in the area, who displayed all his experience by having the composure to take a touch before lashing into the net with goalkeeper Ingram committed.
Five minutes later United made their first change of the afternoon, bringing on Marcus Williams for his second debut for the club in place of Adelakun. Within seconds of William’s introduction the Iron could have doubled their lead from a corner, but Syers’ initial effort was blocked and when the rebound fell straight back to the Doncaster loanee he was unable to find a clean connection with Ingram gathering bravely at his feet.
On 57 minutes – after a lengthy delay because of an injury to Cowan-Hall – United cleared a Choirboys corner with minimal fuss as Niall Canavan dived bravely to head away with the home side looking to get themselves back into the match. Their cause wasn’t helped by Cowan-Hall’s injury however, who was forced off the pitch in favour of Jo Kuffour on the hour-mark as Wycombe reverted to a 4-3-3 formation.
The home side continued to press for a leveller, and forced another corner in the 61st minute. The delivery caused initial problems for the United back-line, before finally coming the way of Wood who sliced an effort well wide from just inside the area. Two minutes later they came even closer, Wood again lashing over from a narrow angle as Wycombe started to dictate proceedings with a series of attacks – with Kuffour in particular impressing after his introduction.
Despite having the lion’s share of attacking chances, the hosts set-up left them open to the prospect of a counter-attack, and that nearly came to fruition for the Iron in the 66th minute as Winnall broke down the left. The forward showed great strength to run clear of his marker before moving into the area and seeing his side-footed effort saved expertly by the legs of Ingram.
With 20 minutes remaining the task of the home side was made considerably harder when they were reduced to 10 men as Josh Scowen saw his second yellow card in quick succession for a late challenge on Sean McAllister. Having only received his first yellow card three minutes previously, Scowen’s lunge was naïve at best, and left referee Graham with little choice but to show the red card.
United looked to immediately profit from their newly-found numerical advantage, and Burton held the ball up superbly on the half-way line before spreading wide to Hawkridge on the right. The Iron winger advanced down the wing before crossing deep to Syers who headed firmly at goal, only to see Ingram palm his effort away and then react quickly to smother the rebound.
Having weathered something of a Wycombe storm prior to Scowen’s dismissal, United were now looking more self-assured and a run down the left from Williams in the 75th minute drew a foul from Nick Arnold – earning the Chairboys man a booking in the process. Minutes later, Winnall earned a free-kick in a similar position, only for Harkwidge’s attempted pass into the area to fool everybody, including his own colleagues.
On 78 minutes another burst down the left from Williams was preceded by an excellent cut-back across the six-yard-box, only for nobody in claret and blue to attack the box at the crucial time. Despite that missed opportunity, the visiting side were looking the more likely to score the pivotal second goal as a flurry of intelligent overlaps from the increasingly attacking-minded Eddie Nolan left Wycombe chasing shadows.
As the match moved into the final five minutes, United showed maturity to keep possession and work the opposition, with isolated right-back Arnold in particular being worked upon by the combination of Williams and Nolan – who had linked-up seamlessly since the introduction of the former.
It was no surprise then that the Iron’s next decent opportunity came after patient build-up down the left culminated in a neat one-two in the area between Winnall and Syers gave United’s top-scorer the chance to once again force a smart save from Ingram from close-range. That action was immediately followed by both sides making further substitutions with two minutes remaining, as McClure was replaced by Junior Morais for the home side and the Iron introduced Jimmy Spencer in place of Burton.
The home fans were then buoyed by the announcement of six minutes added time, and almost levelled in the first of those when Anthony Stewart nodded wide after connecting with a Sam Wood corner at the back-post. United themselves then forced a corner after doggedly keeping the ball in the corner, and their plans for the remaining minutes were clear to all as they played the set-piece short in an attempt to wind down the clock.
That approached appeared to invite Wycombe to put more pressure on the away goal, and they pushed forward with renewed vigour as the minutes ticked down in a desperate attempt to rescue a point. It had seemed the Iron had done just enough to take maximum points, but after a spell of prolonged pressure Leon Johnson rose highest to nod in a cross from the left and salvage a dramatic late point for the Chairboys.
Wycombe Wanderers: Ingram; Hause, Stewart, Johnson, Arnold; Wood, Lewis (capt.), Scowen, Cowan-Hall (Kuffour, 60); McClure (Morais, 88), Craig (Morgan, 42).
Substitutes not used: Horlock, Bloomfield, Kretzschmar, Knott.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe (capt.); Nolan, Canavan, Mirfin, Ribeiro; Adelakun (Williams, 52), McAllister, Syers, Hawkridge; Winnall, Burton (Spencer, 88).
Substitutes not used: Severn, Iwelumo, Esajas, Waterfall, Boyce.
Referee: Fred Graham (Essex).
Attendance: 2,882 (283 away).