Iron midfielder Matt Sparrow expressed a growing sense of frustration after his side were once again victims of last-gasp heartbreak.That was during their draw against Morecambe at the Globe Arena on Good Friday.
United had led for much of the contest courtesy of Sam Winnall’s downward header midway through the first half, and maintained that advantage going into injury-time at the end of the game.
However, not for the first time this season, they were forced to settle for just a point when Shrimps substitute Jack Sampson rose highest to nod home with just seconds remaining to salvage a draw for his side.
The Iron conceding late in games has become something of a theme this year, with last weekend’s meeting with Bury also ending in similar fashion, and Sparrow told The Iron Player: “The lads are absolutely devastated.
“It feels like a defeat really. We’re so close again, and to concede in the 95th minute was gutting really. The lads are absolutely devastated.
“We keep doing it, and I’m not sure if we invite a bit of pressure at the end? Obviously they’re the home team and they’re going to look for the equaliser, but if we could have got the second it would have killed them off.”
Following Sampson’s late strike, United have now been pegged back to draw in the 89th minute or later seven times in manager Russ Wilcox’s 26 games in charge, and Sparrow admitted: “We have to address it quickly if we’re going to finish as champions.
“We’ve thrown a few points away, so we should be sitting at least five or 10 points clear but we’re not. It’s a reality check again.
“It’s about concentrating, seeing games out more, and getting the second to kill teams off basically. It wasn’t to be, and we’ll go home with a point and still top of the league.”
With time ticking down, Morecambe threw caution to the wind in their pursuit of an equaliser which could yet turn out to be invaluable in their quest to avoid relegation out of the Football League.
Naturally, that saw the Shrimps dominate the closing stages of the game, and Sparrow said: “I think they were happy with a point today to keep them just above the relegation zone to be honest.
“They chucked everything at us, and the last 10 to 15 minutes it was hard to get out as they’ve put everything in the box. You could see that in the subs they chucked on; they had four forwards for the last five minutes.”
The Shrimps were aided in their bid to take something from the contest by a questionable decision to award six minutes of additional time at the end of the game, and Sparrow admitted: “I’m not sure where he [the referee] got that from to be honest, but he’s not going to change his mind.
“You’ve just got to get on with it, and try and defend it like we did. I thought we defended well. We might have sat back a little bit too deep, but it happens when the opposition throw everything at you.”
That was not the first controversial officiating decision of the day, with referee Steve Rushton also chalking off a fine Kevin Ellison strike for the Lancashire outfit having already awarded Morecambe a free-kick on the edge of the box for handball.
Such a decision infuriated the hosts, and Sparrow said: “I thought the referee should have played on. Down the other end we’d have been screaming in his ear ‘why didn’t you play on?’.
“We had the rub of the green a couple of times today, and we’ll take the positives of drawing and still being top of the league. It’s not as if we’re played badly. I thought we were ok today, and played some good football.”
The Iron’s late disappointment was offset by a number of teams below them also failing to pick up maximum points, edging United two points clear at the top of League Two with just three games of the regular campaign now remaining, and Sparrow added: “As soon as we go in the changing rooms Harry [Dunn] tells us the results.
“Chesterfield drew at home when they should have won, and Rochdale lost again so they’re not having the best run to the end. They [Rochdale] have drawn or lost two or three games, so it looks like they are feeling the pressure.
“Fleetwood are still in there, but we’re in the driving seat still and it’s just down to us – it’s not about what other teams do.”
The Cod Army winning away to Cheltenham saw the Iron’s advantage over the chasing promotion hopefuls cut to five points, with Easter Monday’s visit of Oxford United to Glanford Park now taking on even greater significance.
Sparrow is determined to take a crucial victory as his side continue their pursuit of automatic promotion, and said: “We’re at home, so hopefully it will be a big crowd. The fans today were fantastic in getting behind the team.
“If they turn up in their numbers Monday, which I’m sure they will, then hopefully we can get three points and get promoted. It was fantastic support today. Over 1,000 fans, and it was a long drive for them as well so was a great turn out.
“It’s just so gutting we couldn’t leave them with three points. We’ll just try to play football again Monday, roll our sleeves up, and do what we’ve been doing all season.
“We have three games left in two weeks, so it’s massive. We’ll go again like we have the last 27 games.
“Oxford is now a massive game, and everyone is looking forward to that. It’s exciting times.”
See much more from Matt Sparrow, Sam Winnall and Russ Wilcox on The Iron Player.