The Iron found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline at the County Ground at the hands of Swindon Town in a disappointing opener to the new season.
The Robins made the first quarter-hour of the game count as they raced into a two-goal lead with goals from Luongo and Smith on the counter-attack before Madden had United back in it, pulling one back as part of a first-half resurgence. A third, galling strike came in added time at the end of the first period, well against the run of play, just as United looked like drawing level.
The damage was done with chances spurned, leaving Swindon two-goal winners after playing out the rest of the game in professional fashion.
Russ Wilcox opted to start with a 4-5-1 formation, with Paddy Madden acting as the lone striker before an early injury to Dave Syers forced his hand. Burton joined Madden up top following Syers’ substitution.
The new season did not take long to spark into life. With United pressing and harrying their opponents early on, play looked positive before Syers misplaced a ball into Bishop on halfway. This allowed a quick counter with Town breaking right at the Iron’s back-line with a player free on the overlap. Godwin received possession out wide-right, squaring for Luongo to scoop into the far corner on the slide, well out of Slocombe’s reach with just three minutes on the clock.
Shortly after the restart, Syers collided with a Swindon man on the edge of the hosts’ area, requiring lengthy treatment. The midfielder was withdrawn minutes later - Deon Burton arriving in his place.
Swindon looked in the ascendency, having just had a convincing penalty shout turned down after a sweeping challenge from Marcus Williams looked to have taken the man before the ball. On twelve minutes, the hosts forced home that point. A second incisive break, this time down the Town left flank, left the Iron stretched. A pull-back towards the penalty spot where Michael Smith was arriving left an easy task for the striker to find the net. After briefly weighing up his options he slammed past Slocombe, to the skipper’s right side.
United had shifted to a 4-4-2 following Deon Burton’s introduction. Through this came the response the Iron needed. Having garnered some time on the ball and a bit of composure following the opening quarter hour, United clawed their way back into the game on nineteen minutes. A long ball forward was flicked on in trademark style by Burton, allowing strike-partner Paddy Madden to spring the trap and race clear. The Irishman needed no second invitation to slot home low past Foderingham to halve the deficit.
Neal Bishop signalled his intent to his team-mates with a point well made to try and retain the new-found composure in the Iron’s play following a frenetic opening quarter-hour with a point well made prior to the restart to the rest of the players. A burst down the left from McAllister required Foderingham to be sharp to collect before Madden could connect and good interchange between Burton, Myrie-Williams and McSheffrey on halfway almost sent the latter clear. Jordan Turnbull’s timely outstretched leg prevented the winger from jinking clear.
As the first period entered its final ten minutes, United really took the game to the home side. On thirty-five minutes, Williams broke well down the left and drilled in a low cross towards Madden. Swindon’s defence half-dealt with the threat but inadvertently fumbled possession into the Irishman’s path. Foderingham had raced off his line but Madden’s effort on the turn was cleared off the line by Turnbull, back turned. Right place, right time for the centre half.
Four minutes later, McSheffrey spurned a fantastic opportunity to level things up. Myrie-Williams worked space high on the Iron right to sweep in a low cross towards the edge of the 6-yard box. McSheffrey sprung out of a gaggle of Swindon defenders but miscued, muddling his feet at the crucial moment when a side-foot on target would have done.
It was all Iron as seven minutes time added on was indicated by the fourth official following Syers’ lengthy period of treatment early in the game. Paddy Madden and Deon Burton combined again, with the Jamaican turning provider for a second time leaving Madden running clear. Turnbull blocked late with another excellently timed slide-challenge, preventing Madden from testing Foderingham further.
Entirely against the run of play, Swindon restored their two-goal advantage going into the break with two minutes of added time left to play. Scunthorpe’s defence was once again up against a quick-counter from Town down the Iron left. Gladwin’s cross-shot cannoned off the far post into Smith two yards out. The striker needn’t have moved; the ball finding the back of Slocombe’s empty net without any need for a real finishing touch.
United restarted in spritely fashion. McSheffrey broke away down the left, providing a low cross towards the near post for Madden to aim for. Lelan raced towards the danger, poking out for a corner before Madden could react. The resultant corner went close. McSheffrey’s delivery again dangerous, drilled over Llera but attacked by Canavan on the dive. The centre-back met the ball with power but Nathan Thompson was well placed to block. Foderingham would have been struggling.
On the hour, play evened out. Swindon, however, still provided a significant threat from wide positions, with their ability to break and find wide-men quickly and concisely. Full-back Byrne again proved the thorn-in-the-side for Williams as he checked inside to hit low on goal. Canavan read the threat, blocking well.
Five minutes later, United were again unlucky not to find the back of the net. Foderingham clawed away from close range following a Madden diving header. Nolan’s good work and cross from the right flank created the chance. Another in the on-target column but not quite enough to add to the goal tally.
Swindon saw fit to replace scorer-of-two Smith with Williams and defender Lelan with Branco on seventy minutes to add fresh legs to the fixture. The impetus swung back towards the hosts with that. A good move and one-two between Luongo and Kasim almost saw the latter able to tap home prior to Williams striking narrowly wide with his first touch from an unmarked position deep inside the area. Nolan got the clearing touch on the post to make sure. Town now gained composure and possession; Kasim and Luongo running the midfield, catalysing the hosts’ forward momentum.
With ten minutes left to play and Town in control, Marcus Williams saw red for his part in a frustrated fracas in the middle of the park involving most of the outfield players, compounding the afternoon’s football for the travelling support. Sparrow entered the fray in place of Burton with time ebbing away as United’s third and final change.
Swindon were in control, more than able to see the result out as time wound down. There was still time for the Robins to threaten out wide. Russ Wilcox will not be happy at the number of occasions the hosts managed to work themselves in behind Scunthorpe lines. Organisation and clinical finishing, not lack of effort, seemed to be an issue at this early stage – issues that should be redeemable given time.
Swindon Town: Foderingham, Lelan (Branco, 70), N Thompson, Turnbull, Byrne, L Thompson, Kasim, Luongo, B Smith, Gladwin, M Smith (Williams, 70).
Substitutes not used: Belford, Barthram, Rodgers, Barker, Waldon.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe, Nolan, Llera, Canavan, Williams, McAllister, Bishop, Syers (Burton, 10) (Sparrow, 83), Myrie-Williams (Taylor, 61), McSheffrey, Madden.
Substitutes not used: Severn, Addison, Hawkridge, Adelakun.
Attendance: 7,060 (454 away).