United return to North Lincolnshire with a point, the very least they deserved after an impressive showing in a 1-1 draw at Bradford.
The hosts had gone in front on the half-hour through a Rory McArdle curler and the Iron battered on the Bantams door all game in search of an equaliser.
An inspired ‘keeper in Jordan Pickford prevented United from finding a way through until the second minute of injury time when substitute Hakeeb Adelakun slammed home in front of the travelling support to give United a point.
Mark Robins elected to make three changes to his side following the midweek FA Cup marathon replay which ran into extra time and penalties at Worcester. Luke Williams, Liam O’Neil and Richard Brindley came in to replace McAllister, Lyle Taylor and Alex Davey.
City came into the fixture following back-to-back wins against Chesterfield then Dartford in the FA Cup. Phil Parkinson made just the one change from the 1-0 win over the Spirites with Billy Knott coming into the side in place of Andy Halliday who drops to the bench.
The Iron started things brightly. Two passages of play inside the opening five minutes saw United battling down the left flank through McSheffrey and Madden. City’s defence warded the Iron off with both moves eventually running for goal kicks despite intricate Iron play.
Bradford stayed on task on five minutes as a long ball gave Madden a sniff on the chase. Rory McArdle was across to shepherd back to Jordan Pickford between the sticks in front of the Kop end at Valley Parade.
The hosts then came back at United after that opening five minutes with a foray forward from ex-Chelsea youngster, Felipe Morais. The winger darted down the right before cutting inside Williams to fire a low cross through the 6-yard box. Jon Stead was waiting at the back post but Slocombe was there first to smother. Boyce then combined with Slocombe to deal with another low ball in from the right; defender seeing it back to ‘keeper with Bradford bodies lurking.
City continued in the same vein up to the quarter hour mark. The threat was from out wide, earning two corners after resolute work from United at the back. Stead directed a tame effort on goal that was blocked behind. That followed the first corner which was comfortably taken by Slocombe from underneath his crossbar.
On 18 minutes United’s travelling support thought Boyce had put them ahead. Madden instigated an attack of his own doing, striding in from the left flank at a back-peddling Bradford back four. A tackle came in handing possession to Luke Williams inside the right edge of the box. His cross-shot earned United a corner. Boyce climbed highest and nodded across the face of goal, into the top corner. Referee Gibbs adjudged the centre-half of pushing his man in the process though, and the effort was chalked off.
Up the other end Jon Stead was called out for doing the same to Boyce as he rose to meet a hanging Morais cross. The effort fell a foot wide of the post in any case.
Play swung the way of the Iron for the next ten minutes. McSheffrey twice burst through into the box only to be caught by Bradford’s defenders. He met Andrew Davies then James Meredith in turn as he looked to get a shot away. Madden played him in after a raking pass into the Irishman from Llera. Meredith’s challenge to halt this move in particular was perfectly executed, as it has to be in the box, prising McSheffrey off the ball before clearing to touch.
Bradford, though, were first to pounce as they struck on 32 minutes. United were back in numbers as City worked forward from midfield. A speculative effort from distance was initially blocked by Boyce before McArdle swept home from the edge of the box, first time and curled into the top corner to Slocombe’s right. An effort any striker would have been proud of from the big centre-half – Slocombe left grasping at air.
Scunthorpe continued as they had before the goal on 34 minutes, remaining on the front foot. Bishop flicked neatly into Luke Williams’ path as the midfielder broke forward at pace. He knocked the ball on to try and beat the last man but McArdle was across in time to slide in and intercept, much to Valley Parade’s joy.
Five minutes before the break, Bradford earned a chance at notching their second. McSheffrey looked to carry the ball away from a well-defended Bradford corner but was caught in possession. The ball was played square for Billy Knott who rushed his effort slightly with the Iron still out of shape after that City corner. Slocombe needn’t have moved as it landed 5 yards wide.
With two minutes to the break United thought they had found the equaliser twice in quick succession. A reverse ball from Osbourne found McSheffrey’s clever run in behind. He cut back across for Madden 6-yards out but Pickford rushed off his line to sprawl, preventing the tap-in. Flashing across the face, the ball then landed at Brindley’s feet. The full-back twisted and took his time to pick his spot. Pickford was quickly across his goalmouth to block on the line. A combination of the ‘keeper, a defender and the post bundled the ball behind for an Iron corner, which was defended competently by the Bantams and was also the last real action of the first period.
United started the second half with a purpose, earning a corner with just a minute played. McSheffrey hung it up, forcing Pickford into clawing away at his back stick with bodies around him. Luke Williams drilled the rehearsed corner into McSheffrey 25-yards out and unmarked. He could only slice high over Pickford’s goal after a heavy first touch gave City’s defence the chance to break out and meet him.
On 52 minutes, United again went agonisingly close to drawing level. Some brilliant one touch passing from Osbourne, McSheffrey and Luke Williams saw the latter free inside the box. Osbourne did well initially to weave himself into the area before sliding across for Williams. He had time and space but saw his strike palmed away by Pickford. United were in control and their football merited an equaliser.
United were harrying and hassling, giving Bradford no room to breathe. Pressure told once more as the hosts conceded a free-kick perfectly placed for Gary McSheffrey to strike. He beat the wall but not Pickford, who got down impressively to palm wide. The Iron support thought McSheffrey had done enough.
With an hour gone the atmosphere kicked up a notch. Isiah Osbourne’s late challenge sparked a ruckus in the centre-circle – a yellow shown by the referee. Phil Parkinson looked less than impressed down on the touchline as he remonstrated with Ned Kelly.
The hosts then garnered a spell on the ball for the next ten minutes, without looking overly threatening. The scuffle on the hour seemed to cut into United’s prior momentum.
United still looked the more likely to find the second goal of the game, however. On 69 minutes Madden broke. He cut inside onto his right to shoot on goal. The angle favoured Pickford though and the ‘stopper parried well.
A minute later, United had the ball in the back of the net for the second time on the afternoon, only for it to be ruled out. Liam O’Neil span inside the box and hit goalwards where McSheffrey and Madden were lurking. McSheffrey poked home but the linesman’s flag was up.
With Scunthorpe chasing the equaliser Bradford had the opportunity to produce a sucker-punch. Jon Stead almost provided it, twice in a minute with a quarter-hour to play. First, free in the box, he shaped for the far corner but curled straight at Slocombe. Then, he bustled around the outside of Boyce and into the area before firing across the face of goal. Osbourne was across to block away.
There were opportunities aplenty and at either end as the Iron were next to produce something. An impeccable stop from Pickford on 77 minutes saw him catch and hold a Madden free header. It looked a banker for the Irishman but the equaliser still evaded United.
As the game entered the final ten minutes United were again on top. Madden struck once more inside the area. A Bradford man slid to block and the ball looked to have bounced up onto his arm. Claims for a penalty were rebutted by the referee. Bradford were leading a charmed life as they looked to hold onto their one-goal lead.
Mark Robins added Hakeeb Adelakun to the fray in place of McSheffrey as the search for an equaliser continued.
With five minutes to go Bradford again escaped conceding with Pickford to thank. Madden sprung the offside trap and strode in on goal, controlling with his forehead before half-volleying on his left. From only ten yards, Pickford had no real time to think. He instinctively tipped over when it looked certain that it was going to beat him.
United then added Lyle Taylor in their bid to equalise with Osbourne making way on 90 minutes.
Time was rapidly ebbing away and it looked as if United were going to go away pointless, despite an excellent display.
Two minutes into four added on Miguel Llera lobbed a ball into the box from halfway. It shaped away from goal and was nodded onto Adelakun who took it down on his toe and inside his man, ten yards out. He stepped on the accelerator, looked up and smashed home across goal. Just desserts for an impressive Iron who went home with a point as time ran out – the very least they deserved. But for Pickford, United would have gained all three.
Bradford City: Pickford, Darby, McArdle, Davies, Meredith, Morais, Liddle, Knott (Halliday, 76), Yeates, Clarke (Hanson, 82), Stead (Zoko, 90).
Substitutes not used: Williams, Sheehan, Kennedy, Routis.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe, Brindley, Boyce, Llera, M. Williams, Osbourne (Taylor, 90), O'Neil, Bishop, McSheffrey (Adelakun, 82), L. Williams, Madden.
Substitutes not used: Olejnik, McAllister, Canavan, Hawkridge, Davey.
Attendance: 12,831 (485 away)