The Iron’s recent run of good form ended in emphatic style with a 4-0 defeat to Exeter City at Glanford Park.
A well-taken goal from Liam Sercombe gave the visiting side a largely undeserved half-time lead, but the Grecians took full advantage by netting twice in a minute soon after the restart through Arron Davies and Sercombe once more, before Sam Parkin completed the scoring in the last minute.
Manager Brian Laws showed faith in the side who came out on top against Cheltenham Town a fortnight ago, naming an unchanged starting line-up.
The home substitutes bench saw two alterations from the Iron’s last outing however, with Christian Ribeiro and Jamie Wootton replacing Callum Howe and Chris Iwelumo – who missed out after suffering from an illness overnight.
Meanwhile, opposing manager Paul Tisdale responded to Exeter’s 3-0 home defeat to Hartlepool last weekend by making two changes as John O’Flynn and Jimmy Keohane came in for David Wheeler and Danny Butterfield. Tisdale also named returning Grecians favourite Matt Gill on the bench, with the midfielder having re-joined the Devon outfit on loan from Bristol Rovers yesterday.
The hosts got the game underway, and immediately looked to get on the front foot by working the ball through midfield to front-man Jimmy Spencer in the opening minute – only for his effort from the edge of the area to be comfortably blocked by the Grecians defence.
Three minutes later, David Syers surged through midfield before sending a fizzing shot over from distance after excellent hold-up play from Deon Burton, with both sides looking to set their own passing tempos in the early stages.
It was Burton who then had the clearest chance to break the deadlock in the 14th minute, when Spencer’s precise through-ball found him in space in the Exeter penalty-area, but a fine low save from ArturKrysiak denied United’s number eight.
The two Iron strikers were linking up together excellently – fully justifying Laws’ decision to stick with the pairing – and appeared to have done enough to give their side the lead in the 16th minute when Burton’s pressure on Krysiak forced an error as he gathered a cross from the left. First to the loose ball was Syers, who gratefully lashed home from close-range, only for his celebration to be cut short by the linesman flagging for an infringement on Krysiak.
On 23 minutes, Sean McAllister became the first player be booked for either sides after a tactical foul in the middle of the park as Exeter looked to launch a swift counter-attack. From the resultant free-kick, the Grecians forced the first corner of the afternoon, with Mirfin only able to head behind his own goal – but the in-swinger from Craig Woodman sailed harmlessly out for a goal-kick.
In the 26th minute, further link-up play between the increasingly telepathic Spencer and Burton offered Esajas the opportunity to break down the left-wing; not needing a second invitation, the Dutch winger skipped past his marker before cutting inside and shooting just wide. Not long after, experienced Exeter midfielder Tommy Doherty joined McAllister in the book, after his aerial challenge on Syers left the Doncaster loanee grounded.
Despite the Iron having the better of the chances in the opening half an hour, they fell behind in the 33rd minute following a fine move from the Grecians; Sercombe bursting through midfield to meet O’Flynn’s clever flick-on before expertly slipping the ball past Sam Slocombe from just inside the area.
Barely seconds after the re-start, O’Flynn wentin aggressively on Cliff Byrne, with home fans urging the referee to send the visiting striker off. However, referee Breakspear showed leniency in only producing a yellow card, much to the frustration of the Glanford support who felt decisions had gone against their side throughout the game.
The away side drew encouragement from going in front against the run of play, and started to create meaningful opportunities of their own as a jinking run by Davies in the 40th minute almost presented the nomadic winger with a shooting opportunity before being forced away from goal by the Iron defence. That signalled the last meaningful action of the first-half, with United going into the interval behind after not making the most of their earlier dominance.
An unchanged Iron side appeared for the second-half, and they set about trying to get back into the game straight from the restart as a lofted ball from Burton just eluded the stretching Spencer after he’d galloped free of the last defender.
Having started the second period well, the Iron were about see their task of recovering the match double in difficulty, as Alan Gow navigated space in the middle before the ball eventually fell to Davies – who cut onto his right foot and curled a magnificent 35-yard effortinto the corner to double his sides lead on 49 minutes.
Within moments, it had got even worse for the home side; Sercombe was allowed far too much space to run through midfield before finding Gow on the right, with the Scotsman’s pull-back from the by-line finding Sercombe once again, who swept confidently past Slocombe for his second of the day.
A shell-shocked Iron looked to respond, and Syers was only prevented from reducing the arrears in the 51st minute by a sprawling save by Krysiak after being put through on goal. The Iron management then looked to change things tactically, with Sam Winnall and Terry Hawkridge replacing Esajas and Matt Sparrow.
Minutes later, substitute Winnall enjoyed his first involvement of the game, but his low drive was beaten away by Krysiak. The Iron then forced a series of set-pieces around the hour mark, with Winnall and David Mirfin seeing their efforts cleared off the line after numerous prolonged episode of pin-ball in the Exeter six-yard-box.
Despite the score-line, the home side were now causing all the problems, and in the 63rd minute Krysiak had to be at his best once more to keep out a long-rang Syers effort. Soon after, the Iron earned yet another corner, as Spencer and Burton combined on the edge of the area. The ball from the resultant set-piece eventually fell to Spencer from the resultant set-piece, but his attempt on the swivel was gathered with ease by Krysiak.
With the game – if not the scoreline – beginning to turn the Iron’s way, Exeter manager Paul Tisdale opted to bring Matt Gill and Matt Grimes on for Doherty and Jimmy Keohane in the 69th minute.
That didn’t stop the Iron onslaught on the Exeter goal however, and the home side came close to pulling a goal back in the 71stminute when Krysiak flapped at Syers cross – before the United midfielder sent an acrobatic effort over from the edge of the area.
On 73 minutes Brian Laws chose to give a run-out to academy product Hakeeb Adelakun, who entered the fray in place of Sean McAllister. The away side also used their final available substitution bringing on Sam Parkin in place of the dangerous Gow.
The substitute almost had an immediate impact on the game, with the fearless 17-year-old moving past his man on the right wing before firing low at Krysiak as United continued to pour forward. That attacking theme continued, with Syers blasting into the side-netting in the 77th minute amidst a flurry of set-pieces for the home side – during a period in which Burton also headed wide at the back-post.
With five minutes left of play, Woodman became the third Exeter player to be booked, but that would have been of little concern to the Grecians as the match eased towards its conclusion. Once again though, the Iron forced a corner from Adelakun’s deflected cross, but the theme of the day continued as they were unable to profit from the set-piece opportunity – with Hawkridge going in the book in the 89th minute after frustration led to a poor tackle in midfield.
The Grecians might have been happy to play out the closing stages without over-exerting themselves, but much to the delight of their travelling fans they added a fourth as the game edged into injury time; Grimes’ effort from range was spilled by Slocombe, and fellow substitute Parkin reacted fastest to nick the ball past the Iron.
That completed a miserable second-half for United, who suffered only their second defeat of the season – and their first of the campaign at Glanford Park – at the hands of a clinical Exeter side.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe; Dawson, Mirfin, Canavan, Byrne; Esajas (Winnall, 53), McAllister (Adelakun, 73), Syers, Sparrow (Hawkridge, 53); Burton, Spencer.
Substitutes not used: Severn, Ribeiro, Waterfall, Wootton.
Exeter City: Krysiak; Woodman, Baldwin, Coles (capt.), Bennett; Sercombe, Keohane (Grimes, 69), Doherty (Gill, 69), Davies; Gow (Parkin, 73); O'Flynn.
Substitutes not used: Pym, Moore-Taylor, Tillson, Wheeler.
Referee: Charles Breakspear (Surrey).
Attendance: 3,250 (118 away).