Theo Robinson had given the Iron the lead on the half hour with a technically brilliant top-corner curled effort before the hosts turned things around late in the game through Tom Eastman and Chris Porter. Mark Robins introduced Hakeeb Adelakun with three minutes to play and it was he who fired in the equaliser in the second of three minutes added on to give Scunthorpe a vital share of the points.
United made just one change from the midweek 1-1 draw at Glanford Park against Port Vale. John Lundstram stepped into the side to replace Kevin van Veen.
The hosts were three points adrift of safety at the start of the afternoon and in desperate need of points exacerbated by a 6-0 mauling at the hands of Chesterfield on Tuesday evening. Three points for the Iron would leave playing League One football again next season an ever more secure proposition with three games of the season left to play.
Scunthorpe started the brighter inside the first five minutes, looking at working the ball down both flanks and searching for Theo Robinson running off the shoulder of his man.
On four minutes, the striker peeled away to break the offside trap before finding Gary McSheffrey. First time, the winger whipped a cross in low. Bogdani Khumalo struggled to get a meaningful contact on his clearance as he stooped, allowing Neal Bishop to spin and shoot from 10 yards. Straight at the keeper – Bishop’s head was in his hands.
Two minutes later, Bishop and Robinson were again involved as the former dinked a ball in behind for the latter. Robinson then did likewise for Paddy Madden, sending the Irishman through with a sight on goal. His shot was straight at Sam Walker and gathered easily, however.
Up to the quarter-hour mark, the Iron were content to be patient in order to exploit a defence that had conceded six on their last outing against Chesterfield. The hosts did look a threat on the break though. Down the left flank, the U’s had got in behind through Murphy, only for his cross to curl behind for a goal kick. On 16 minutes, he was fouled trying a duplicate of that run. The free-kick came to nothing, with Eastman heading wide at the back post after some good marshalling from the Iron.
After some toing and froing of possession, Colchester created their two best openings of the game so far with 22 minutes on the clock. Andrew Boyce was well placed to cut out a low ball from former Iron loanee Jacob Murphy but the hosts came again through another former Iron, Richard Brindley. He strode into the box from the right edge before driving low at Luke Daniels, who blocked well at his near post.
In the next attack, just two minutes later, Murphy again got away down the Colchester left flank and looped a tantalising cross for Gavin Massey to put away. He spurned the chance, heading wide instead in-front of the home end and much to their surprise. It was an excellent opening.
On 27 minutes, the game’s momentum swung again, the Iron this time forcing the issue. McSheffrey played Madden in down the right with the Irishman then squaring to Robinson on the edge of the 6-yard box. It looked an inevitable Iron opener but the Doncaster loanee was just unable to stretch and apply the finishing touch.
With half an hour played, Robinson did provide the finishing touch – consummately so, curling into the far top corner with Sam Walker grasping at air. A simple clearance long from Luke Daniels found Robinson who controlled and struck excellently on the half-turn with no hesitation to give the Iron the initiative in a game that had just begun to open up.
The Iron took the initiative immediately after the opener, Isiah Osbourne hit from 35-yards, but narrowly over the bar.
As the game headed towards the break there was a lull in real action. The hosts were trying to press themselves back into the game while the Iron continued to try and assert themselves. This only ended in the sides cancelling their respective advances out. There was time only for Bishop to be clattered on halfway, requiring some treatment to a knock to the head, before the referee brought the first period to a close.
Colchester returned after the break with a renewed urgency, instigating the first three moves of the second period. The first opportunity fell to Murphy within just a minute of the restart – his strike deflected off an Iron man and skipped off the turf into Daniels’ arms.
On 48 minutes, the hosts came again, earning a corner after Williams got across to block a ball into the box. The delivery fell into a ruck on the penalty spot, and was poked towards goal hitting the back of a Colchester man before falling to Niall Canavan who hooked well clear with Chris Porter lurking.
Barring a half-chance on the volley, hit by Madden from some distance, the hosts were the ones creating at this stage. Clarke was the latest with a timely interception to prod away from Porter who would have been through on goal had the right back not been alert to the danger.
As the game entered the final third, the U’s continued to press. With 63 minutes on the clock, the Iron narrowly escaped a well-placed free-kick from the left. The ball was floated into the box and lashed just wide of Daniels’ right post with the home support half-celebrating. Five minutes after that, another ball swept across the Iron penalty area without intervention and with Massey arriving at the back post. He drove hard and high, forcing Daniels into an excellent instinctive save with no time to react - Scunthorpe’s ‘keeper getting his hands up to tip onto the bar.
With 15 minutes to play, Mark Robins shook things up with two changes – Robinson and Bishop were replaced by Kyle Wootton and George Evans respectively. Tony Humes also elected to make a change with Sembie-Ferris replacing Murphy amid negative chanting from the home support.
Having garnered perhaps the better chances in the second period, the hosts made their latest count. On 81 minutes, Eastman hooked the ball into the top corner after the Iron failed to clear a corner.
Just four minutes later, the hosts took the lead. A quick free-kick over the top outfoxed the Iron’s back-line, sending Chris Porter clean through. The big striker bustled past his man before gaining his stride to smash home across Daniels. The chants of “Humes out” from the home support with just three games of the season to play and the hosts fighting for their lives subsided as the U’s looked to close out the win.
The hosts could not follow through though after nosing in front. Mark Robins introduced Hakeeb Adealkun with three minutes to play and it was he who got the equaliser, two minutes into three added on much to the delight of the Iron bench. Adelakun jinked his way past his man down the Iron right and into the box before firing on goal. The ball deflected and looped high over walker into the far corner as the last meaningful action of the game.
Colchester United: Walker, Khumalo, Gibley (Healey, 56), Briggs, Eastman, Massey, Moncur, Murphy (Sembie-Ferris, 76), Brindley, Fox, Porter.
Substitutes not used: Lewington, Wynter, Bonne, Szmodics, Lapslie.
Scunthorpe United: Daniels, Clarke, Boyce, Canavan, Williams, Osbourne, Bishop (Evans, 76), Lundstram, McSheffrey, Madden, Robinson (Wootton, 76).
Substitutes: Anyon, Llera, Townsend, Adelakun, van Veen.
Attendance: 4,551 (283 away).