The Iron took all three points with a consummate performance at the Banks’s Stadium against Walsall, running out 4-1 winners.Goals from Tom Hopper, Paddy Madden, Neil Bishop and a Chambers own-goal to get things going were all the Iron deserved after riding a testing opening 20 minute spell from the hosts.
Walsall did pull one back after the break to make it 2-1 but United’s first half momentum after the opener carried through into the second period, making it look comfortable in the end in a complete performance that displayed every side of their game.
United made three changes to their starting eleven from the FA Cup clash with Chesterfield. Hakeeb Adelakun and Lyle Taylor dropped to the bench to make way for midweek signings Jacob Murphy and Tom Hopper. Sean McAllister was also left out in favour of Liam O’Neil.
In a lively opening five minutes it was perhaps the hosts that shaded it. A couple of loose passes out of defence allowed Walsall to break with some sharp one-touch play towards the Iron box. Andrew Boyce and Miguel Llera did their bit to ensure they got no further than that.
The first real opening for either side came on six minutes, following a foray forward from Madden that earned a corner, though it came to nothing. Three Walsall men interchanged nicely on the edge of United’s penalty area after Romaine Sawyers’ lively burst down the right. This saw Tom Bradshaw, the Saddlers one-up-top, free inside the box but back to goal. He elected to tee Anthony Forde up for a strike – narrowly wide with Sam Slocombe planted.
Forde again fired on goal a minute later, this time dragging further wide of Slocombe’s right post from 20-yards.
Walsall’s positive start was underlined further with Jordan Cook forcing the first save of the game out of United’s stopper. The Iron had defended well to tidy up a promising move for the Saddlers, with Bishop able to calmly nod back to Slocombe. Walsall broke right back though, and Cook’s dipping effort took a bobble – Slocombe watched it well to smother.
The lead up to the quarter-hour mark was no different to the opening ten minutes with the hosts continuing to press. Cook swerved a clever ball across the face of goal after another slick move. Sawyers was lurking at the back stick but Marcus Williams was there first to hook clear.
Barring two breaks on the twenty minute mark from Scunthorpe the story of the half remained the same, with Walsall looking to pass quickly and get at the Iron.
Even so, on 24 minutes, United took the lead. McSheffrey brought the ball away down the left flank and whipped in a dangerous ball across the face. With nobody around him, James Chambers made a terrible hash of his clearance, slamming home into his own top corner instead of into the Walsall fans behind the goal. United had to remain organised and resolute for the opening 20 minutes as the hosts pressed and they now had their reward.
The next ten minutes were United’s as they looked to build on that opener with Walsall dazed. In almost a carbon copy of the first, Madden must have thought he had put United two up. An inviting McSheffrey delivery came in once more, this time with Madden on the end of it. He stooped to nod home but the linesman’s flag was up.
The assistant referee was in action once more on the half-hour as Tom Hopper skittled the hosts from a corner. Llera nodded on goal, Richard O’Donnell parried and Hopper tapped in for what would be his first strike for the club. The flag was up once more though, offside.
Five minutes later, United were pushing again. Madden strode across the defence and diagonally into the box with Hopper for company. Madden could have pulled the trigger but found the striker lurking and free. Walsall bodies rushed to block and a rebound effort from the youngster was well wide.
United’s pressure told and they doubled their advantage on 39 minutes. After a quick corner, McSheffrey and Murphy pulled Walsall this way and that before the latter fired across the box for Hopper to poke home at the near post. His first goal in claret and blue and all the Iron deserved for staying on task in a first half that displayed every side of their game.
With two minutes to the break, United could have added a third with some top-tier football. Hopper outmuscled his man on the edge of the box and shielded before passing off to McSheffrey. He then tried an audacious chip onto the penalty spot that caught the Walsall defence square. Madden came in on the angle but couldn’t quite sort his feet to hit home before Walsall recovered to clear.
With three minutes added onto the first period, the hosts looked to push. Sawyers carried the ball forward before driving from 25-yards just inches wide of the post with Slocombe beaten, going to show that the hosts weren’t out of it at this stage by any means.
The second period started in a more even vain than the end of the first had. The hosts spurned a good chance immediately after the break as Micheal Cain sliced a half-volley well wide, despite finding space inside the Iron box.
On 51 minutes, he didn’t make the same mistake. After a good ball into the striker’s feet, Bradshaw was able to lay back to Cain after fending off Llera on the edge of the box. The midfielder coolly curled home into the bottom corner – the ball always shaping out of Slocombe’s reach.
United then came back at Walsall, earning a free-kick 35-yards form goal. McSheffrey looked to dink the ball in straight towards the heads. Llera made the break and was adjudged to have been pulled down. The referee signalled to the spot but the linesman had his flag up. After protest from the Iron support, the penalty decision was overruled.
The manager saw fit to introduce Sean McAllister on 56 minutes in place of Jacob Murphy. He took up a familiar position screening the back four.
The goal back for the Saddlers had undoubtedly given them an impetus but it was shattered on 63 minutes with the award, this time, of an Iron penalty. Bishop was felled inside the box giving Madden the chance to notch his 12th of the season, making no mistake as he slammed right down the middle.
Two minutes later United added a fourth. Hopper flicked onto Bishop after a long diagonal came in towards the penalty spot. Bishop rushed towards the corner of the 6-yard box to meet it and slot home across the face. The Iron were in full flow and the travelling support were getting a treat.
United were well in control after the fourth with Walsall frustrated and struggling to find a way back into the game even after making their maximum allotted three substitutions. Mark Robins elected to give Madden a break with ten minutes to go, Hakeeb Adelakun his replacement. Eddie Nolan also took to the field in place of Marcus Williams.
Things drew to a close with United poking and prodding Walsall in predatory fashion when the time was right, whilst also content also just to sit organised on what they already had. A consummate performance.
Walsall: O'Donnell, Taylor, O'Connor, Downing, A. Chambers, Bradshaw, Sawyers (Manset 77), Cain, J. Chambers, Cook (Flanagan, 72), Forde (Grimes, 72).
Substitutes not used: Purkiss, Baxendale, Benning, MacGillivray.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe, Davey, Boyce, Llera, Williams (Nolan, 84), Murphy (McAllister, 58), Bishop, O'Neil, McSheffrey, Madden (Adelakun, 80), Hopper.
Substitutes not used: Weaver, Canavan, Hawkridge, Taylor.
Attendance: 3,738 (318 away).