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Match Reports

Portsmouth (H)

5 February 2013

United clawed their way out of the bottom four with a 2-1 win over fellow relegation strugglers Portsmouth.

With Oldham Athletic’s game postponed, Brian Laws’ men knew three points would pull them out of the drop zone, and they managed to achieve that.

After taking the lead through Akpo Sodje, the Iron allowed themselves to be pegged back on the stroke of half-time and despite struggling for the majority of the second half they somehow dragged themselves over the line by their fingernails with Sodje getting his and United’s second just five minutes from time, in a game which will never go down as a classic.

Following their spirited performance against Crewe the Iron were unchanged from the weekend.

That meant that Sam Slocombe started his sixth consecutive game between the posts. In front of him were a back four from left to right of Callum Kennedy, Niall Canavan, Paul Reid and continuing to deputise at right back was Tom Newey.

In midfield were the quartet of Andy Barcham, Mark Duffy, Michael Collins and Jimmy Ryan, while up top Karl Hawley joined home debutant Sodje.

For the visitors, such are their problems that their starting line-up contained only two who started the game at Fratton Park back on 29 September and they were only able to name four

But despite their problems it was Pompey who almost struck first after only five minutes.

What looked like a harmless ball lofted forward was miscontrolled by Canavan as he tried to play the ball back to Slocombe.

Instead the ball sliced off his instep straight into the path of James Keane who saw his controlled lob drift just over the bar.

To their credit the Iron did try to hit back almost immediately and as so many times this season it was Duffy who was the chief architect streaking down the left before seeing his cutback turned behind.

After the early wobble the home side looked much more like the side from Saturday with Duffy and Barcham swapping wings at will and it was from a former who whipped in a ball after 20 minutes which found Sodje eight yards out unmarked, but the big number nine found Simon Eastwood between him and a first goal for the club.

With 15 minutes left of the first half the Iron had arguably their best chance of the game when a whipped ball from Newey found Hawley unmarked just four yards out with Eastwood stranded but somehow the ball ended up deflected out for a corner as the Iron continued to probe and push but found the visitors' defence resolute.

That was until five minutes before the break when finally the home side found a way through and predictably it was the new boy Sodje.

Callum Kennedy did well down the left; getting almost to the byline before cutting the ball back and there less than half a dozen yards out was the big man to cushion a header into the back of the net.

Barcham should have made it two almost straight from the restart but scuffed his shot into the arms of Eastwood as the visitors looked in danger of total capitulation.

But unfathomably for Laws and the home side the half ended level from a position of such dominance.

Canavan conceded a free-kick just on the edge of the box which Liam Walker curled over the wall and into the top corner with what was the final kick of the half.

Laws responded by replacing Barcham at the interval with Mike Grellaas the Iron went from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 with Sodje playing in the middle of the attack, Hawley to the left and Grella to the right.

In a battle between the two relegation sides, Hawley became the first casualty after a clash with Sam Sodje which required attention and a Terry Butcher-esque bandage.

Whether buoyed by their late equaliser at the end of the first half or their momentary numerical advantage, it was the visitors who almost took the lead.

James Keane saw his goal-bound effort blocked on the line as it was now the Iron clinging on.

With 18 minutes left the Iron made their second substitution; bringing on Josh Walker for his first appearance in almost two months as he replaced Jimmy Ryan.

Just as the game looked to be heading for a stalemate and with neither side looking likely to score a brilliant piece of opportunism won the game.

A brilliant piece of vision saw Sodje check his run into the box before flicking home a header from Kennedy’s lofted ball into the box to make it two goals for the former and two assists for the latter.

As United wore down the clock, the visitors became frustrated as Jed Wallace fully hurled Grella to the floor, yet amazingly again Mr Rushton kept his cards in his pocket.

With four minutes added on many inside the ground held their breath as Pompey piled every man forward in search of a lifeline in their own battle for survival.

But mercifully for their fans the home side hung on for their first home win since September 22.
Scunthorpe United:
Slocombe, Kennedy, Reid, Canavan, Newey, Barcham (Grella 45), Ryan (Walker 72), Collins, Duffy, Hawley, Sodje.
Substitutes not used: Severn,  Mirfin, Godden, Wooton, Adelakun.
Portsmouth: Eastwood, Sodje, Walker, Reed, Moutaoukil, Gypes, Keene, Ertl, Harris (Cooper 76), Webster, Wallace.
Substitutes not used: Smith, Rocha, Butler.

Attendance: 2,596 (205 away).

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