The Iron battled their way to a fourth successive draw as a game of few chances ended in stalemate at Victoria Park.
Instead, they were left to withstand a late Hartlepool onslaught, but held strong to take a point despite the best efforts of Pools substitutes Jack Compton and Marlon Harewood.
Iron boss Russ Wilcox kept faith with the side which drew 0-0 in Monday night’s televised clash with Fleetwood Town at Glanford Park, with Andrew Boyce’s inclusion on the bench ahead of Luke Waterfall the only tactical alteration.
Meanwhile, Hartlepool manager Colin Cooper made two changes from the team who slipped to a narrow 2-1 defeat at AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday as Jack Barmby – making his full debut – and Sam Collins were promoted to the starting line-up. The pair took the places of Harewood and Jack Baldwin respectively, with the latter completing a transfer to Peterborough United late last night.
The opening 10 minutes of the game passed with little in terms of goalmouth action, as the home side opted for a direct approach which saw a number of long clearances from goalkeeper Scott Flinders dealt with well by the Iron defence.
However, United were first to pose a serious threat on 11 minutes as McSheffrey’s hanging cross from the left almost reached Sam Winnall in the area before the hosts cleared the danger and countered quickly themselves only for David Mirfin to make a crucial interception.
The hosts were soon on the attack once again, this time forcing a 12th minute corner which fell at the feet of Luke Williams in the area; the attacking midfielder displaying composure to twist in limited space before being closed down. Williams would be involved once more less than two minutes later, cutting in from the left and sending a curling effort goal-bound which Sam Slocombe acrobatically tipped just wide.
Despite starting slowly, Pools began a sustained period of play which involved a series of slick passing moves that came close to unlocking the United defence. They were then almost punished for their lack of cutting edge in the final third in the 22nd minute when a rare Iron attack culminated in McSheffrey stepping inside from the left and crashing a rasping effort off the crossbar.
Two minutes later the Victoria Park outfit were back on the attack, earning another corner as Andy Monkhouse stole the ball on the edge of the area and fired fiercely at goal – with Slocombe palming the ball away and his defence electing to put the ball behind. United were visibly struggling with the fluid movement and physicality of Hartlepool, and found themselves penned back deep into their own territory as the half-hour mark approached.
That pressure led to Luke James being felled illegally on the edge of the box in the 32nd minute as he looked to work his way into the area, allowing Luke Williams a sight of goal from the resultant free-kick.
However, the United wall stood tall to block the set-piece and avert the immediate danger as Niall Canavan headed clear. The Iron were then awarded a free-kick of their own, with debutant Barmby booked for denying the away side the opportunity to take it quickly – the eventually delivery being punched away cleanly by Flinders.
Having ridden the Hartlepool storm, United began to finally impose themselves on the game, and won their first corner of the afternoon on 38 minutes courtesy of sterling work by the lively McSheffrey. The former Coventry winger took the corner himself, with Flinders being called upon to punch away once more under significant pressure in a packed six-yard-box.
Flinders then looked less assured in the 43rd minute when he raced out to collect McSheffrey’s whipped cross from a free-kick; the goalkeeper initially appearing to have misjudged the delivery, only to adjust admirably to gather above his head.
The home side then had the best opportunity of the opening period in the final seconds of the half, as a corner from the left caused chaos in the United area. After a frantic scramble, Simon Walton volleyed at goal, only to see Sam Winnall on hand at the near-post to head away and deny Hartlepool taking a lead into the break.
United began the second half in a more positive fashion than they had the first, enjoying relative parity in the midfield battle following the restart. The hosts still seemed the most likely to cause significant problems further up the field however, and Sean McAllister was booked on 52 minutes for hauling down the tricky Williams on halfway as he broke forward.
Each side then traded efforts at goal from distance in the space of three minutes, with Winnall and Luke Williams taking it in turns to fire off target as both teams struggled to create a clear sight of goal. That would almost change on 56 minutes when McSheffrey collected a cross from the right in space and struck at goal, but he was to be denied by a brave block from Hartlepool captain Neil Austin – who required treatment on the side-lines for his selfless defending.
Just after the hour mark the Iron almost forced another opportunity when a free-kick from deep on the right wasn’t dealt with sufficiently by the hosts. The ball eventually fell to McAllister on the edge of the area only for further dogged defending from the Pools back-line to prevent the diminutive midfielder finding his intended target.
The away side were now looking the most likely, and on 65 minutes introduced Paddy Madden in place of winger Terry Hawkridge in an attempt to take the game to Hartlepool. The attacking switch caused immediate concern for the home side just a minute later, when Eddie Nolan’s looping cross from the right was unconvincingly fumbled behind by Flinders – with the resultant corner sailing straight out for a goal-kick.
After threatening sporadically at times during the second half, the match then became increasingly flat with the only meaningful action seeing McSheffrey send a tame free-kick from the best part of 40 yards straight at Flinders on 73 minutes. The hosts then countered, and a jinking run from Barmby required Slocombe to dive low at his near-post and push away after the Pools attacked had advanced into the penalty-area.
United then made their second change of the day on 75 minutes when Michael Collins replaced the booked McAllister, and three minutes later Austin – still feeling the effects of his earlier challenge – limped off for Hartlepool with his place being taken by Anthony Sweeney. The away side then completed their permitted substitutions when Hakeeb Adelakun took the place of Paul Hayes.
In turn, Hartlepool then made a double substitution by replacing debutant Barmby and Monkhouse with Compton and Harewood respectively with nine minutes remaining. The home side began to push forward with purpose, and Compton was immediately involved when his delicately clipped cross just eluded Harewood at the far-post barely seconds after the pair entered the fray.
The experienced Harewood then caused further problems on 85 minutes as he meandered his way past three Iron defenders before eventually being crowded out as the home fans began to raise the volume in Victoria Park.
The pressure on United was beginning to mount, but their defence resiliently held firm to keep the scores level going into the final minutes. However, in the 89th minute their hard work was almost undone when Harewood again broke down the left and exchanged a swift one-two before blasting inches wide from long-range.
Despite Hartlepool maintaining their pressure until the end and threatening late on from a corner, that would mark the last meaningful opportunity for either side to steal all three points, with referee Jeremy Simpson blowing for full-time soon after.
The result sees United stretch their unbeaten run under manager Russ Wilcox to 13 games, but lose further ground on league leaders Chesterfield.
Hartlepool United: Flinders; Holden, Burgess, Collins, Austin (capt.) (Sweeney, 78); Walton; Walker, Monkhouse (Harewood, 81); Williams; Barmby (Compton, 81), James.
Substitutes not used: Rafferty, Poole, Rodney, Hawkins.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe (capt.); Williams, Mirfin, Canavan, Nolan; McSheffrey, McAllister (Collins, 75), Syers, Hawkridge (Madden, 65); Hayes (Adelakun, 80), Winnall.
Substitutes not used: Severn, Ribeiro, Sparrow, Boyce.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).
Attendance: 3,727 (497 away).