Fielding a youthful side, the Iron continued their pre-season with a hard-fought and late 1-0 victory away at Winterton Rangers on Tuesday evening.It started as an overcast evening close to the banks of the Humber, and the early mood of the sky accurately reflected the general mood of the match - which was a largely archetypal pre-season friendly. Both teams huffed and puffed, but both struggled blow the house down in a game in which defenders and goalkeepers were almost exclusively on-top.
United nearly snatched a late winner firstly when Noel Burdett lost his footing in the box at the vital moment; and then when Jack Mawson saw a header saved seconds afterwards. But, in the end, Luke Waterfall rose highest in the box to secure a 1-0 win with a vicious header.
The result was possibly a tad harsh on Winterton, however, who battled well throughout and forced United goalkeeper Ben Ledger into some good saves. A draw had looked very likely throughout - but in the end, Scunthorpe's quality saw them home.
In terms of their line-up, Scunthorpe started with professionals Andrew Boyce and Luke Waterfall in the heart of their defence. That aside, Ben Ledger started in goal, with Jack Dyche and Riley Baker covering the sides of defence. Emilio Oliver-Stothand, Matt Stockill, Connor Purdue and Reece Mosanya collaborated to form the midfield; while Jack Mawson and Noel Burdett were on the goal-hunt in attack.
The substitutes, furthermore, were Charlie Cleminshaw, Sonny Shilling, Jack Hardacre and Will Swann.
In the opening moments of the game, it was clear that United were intent upon playing at a high-tempo, incorporating plenty of passing in their build-up play. With five minutes gone, the Iron carved out something of a chance, but after cutting in from the left, Matt Stockill ballooned his shot high. Moments later, Reece Mosanya teed Stockill up again after some tidy individual footwork on the wing, but the midfielder was only able to hit wide.
With around ten minutes played, Winterton constructed their first chance of the match, and probably should have taken the lead. A lofted ball evaded Boyce and Waterfall at centre-back, but the home side's striker went for placement over power having brought it down - and his delicate chip ended up on top of Ben Ledger's net - rather than within it.
The game was gradually developing into a more even battle after a robust United start, but Scunthorpe might have taken the lead through Noel Burdett in the fifteenth minute nonetheless. He unexpectedly received a Winterton goal-kick, but by the time he had brought it under his spell, didn't have the amount of time required to get a shot away.
With just over twenty-minutes played, Winterton then won a free-kick on the very edge of Scunthorpe's box. That was sent wide; and the corner which the Iron then secured moments later was no more successful.
A phase or two later, Scunthorpe's Jack Dyche was then the defensive hero with a saving tackle after a Rangers player crept in-behind the Iron's defence and threatened to pull the trigger. In fact, at that stage of the game, after a series of half-chances, Winterton were starting to look the more assured team of the two.
Sensing the tide of the game was tuning, United therefore changed their impetus slightly, and commenced trying to keep the ball for longer periods - utilising less extravagant passing. It was an approach that had a degree of success, until Luke Waterfall was caught in possession at centre-half on the half-hour mark, and was forced to concede a foul. Winterton duly boxed the resultant free-kick, and Scunthorpe then had Ben Ledger to thank for a confident catch.
And that - as they say - was that for the first-half as something of a war of attrition developed with little further ground conceded by either team. In actual fact, the only subsequent attempt which even resembled a chance before the whistle sounded for the break was Connor Purdue's long-range volley which went high-and-wide on the forty-minute mark.
The second half, meanwhile, kicked off with United again out to play at a quick pace. Given a new lease of life by Paul Harsley's team talk and spectator Sam Slocombe's words of advice, the unchanged Iron soon won a corner through Burdett's clever run. However, that was caught by Winterton's goalkeeper, with Matty Welsh then blasting the last touch of the counter-attack which promptly followed into the side-netting.
And it was a preamble of things to come, as it turned out. On the hour mark the home side almost took the lead, when United struggled to defend a low-cross into the box, leaving a Winterton player with a potential tap-in at the far-post - and it would've been were it not for a fine Ben Ledger save. Moments later, United replaced winger Emilio Oliver-Stothand with Sonny Shilling.
Seconds later, Scunthorpe had a good chance if their own, however. The ball came across the box to Noel Burdett, but his particularly powerful shot was blocked. United came again through Mawson as time ticked on, only for him to be beaten in an aerial battle with the goalkeeper; before Purdue's cross was collected.
With just over twenty-minutes to play, the writing - denoting a no-score-draw - seemed to be on the wall. Scunthorpe had certainly started to control the game and looked the likelier, but Winterton's defence were still not willing to budge an inch as Jack Hardacre replaced Matt Stockill. Goals, it was clear, were a priceless entity - and United would need to produce a moment of real quality to grab one.
For the last ten minutes United introduced Will Swann, as United really battled to make the breakthrough. A period of sustained pressure then climaxed with Burdett firing wide after losing his footing at the vital moment. As time ticked on further, Burdett then headed into the goalkeeper's arms after Waterfall's flick found him in space.
With five minutes left, however, United did manage a winner. After a further aerial bombardment, Waterfall finally got a header away which went beyond the goalkeeper to give Scunthorpe the win following a left-wing corner.