Iron favourite Matt Sparrow marked his 500th career appearance in style by celebrating promotion on the pitch with a bumper Glanford Park crowd after the 2-2 home draw with York City.United had gone into the game with an outside chance of clinching the League Two title, but had to settle for the runners-up spot after Chesterfield United managed the win they needed to end the season as champions.
The 32-year-old had his first major involvement of the afternoon with seven minutes gone, when he showed his experience to calmly weave his way into a shooting position on the edge of the area. Having created space for himself, he tried his luck with a left-footed drive, but saw the effort charged down by the visiting defence.
Sparrow was at the heart of a slick United passing move 12 minutes later, with the midfielder more than playing his part as he calmly dictated play from the central area of the pitch. That stage of play culminated in the Iron taking a crucial lead, with Paddy Madden timing his run perfectly to nod home an Eddie Nolan cross from the left.
That role as the play-maker in the United set-up continued for much of the opening period, with Sparrow’s team-mate’s looking to get the ball to him as regularly as they could. Not one to shirk his defensive responsibilities, Sparrow then displayed his commitment to the cause eight minutes before the interval as he won a challenge where he was second-favourite.
Such endeavour was to benefit the Iron offensively too, as Terry Hawkridge eventually collected the ball on the right. The winger skipped inside of his marked before sending a shot at goal; a cruel deflection taking into over Minstermen goalkeeper Nick Pope to double United’s advantage and give them some breathing space as they chased victory.
Their lead was to be halved as the game entered injury-time at the end of the first half however, when York’s Ryan Brobbel picked up the ball on the left flank before cutting inside and firing home an excellent strike from distance.
Sparrow began the second in industrious fashion as he won two challenges in quick succession soon after the restart to stall York’s progress as they looked to break on their hosts through the middle. That theme remained constant on 52 minutes, when he read play expertly to intercept on halfway and prevent the away side from taking the ball into a dangerous area.
The Wembley-born midfielder was switching flanks with Hawkridge at regular intervals, and with half an hour remaining moved to the right side. From there, he was able to swing in a low cross towards Dave Syers; only for the ball to bounce off the former Doncaster man and into the arms of a grateful Pope.
York were pushing forward in pursuit of a leveller, meaning United were pressed back deep inside their own half as they attempted to preserve their slender lead. That saw Sparrow unable to demonstrate his attacking intent, and the visitor’s pressure told in the 70th minute when Calvin Andrew scrambled into the net after a period of sustained pressure.
The Minstermen’s equaliser set up a tense finale, but with eight minutes remaining Sparrow picked up the ball in space on the right before attempting a cross. However, his delivery was blocked by the first man; bringing an end to United’s attack.
The Iron would be unable to steal a late winner, although any lingering disappointment was quickly forgotten as the final whistle prompted thousands of fans to flood onto the pitch and join their team – including Sparrow – in celebrating a historic season.