Two goals in two minutes from Greg Leigh and Marcus Haber saw United suffer a 2-0 defeat at Crewe Alexandra on Saturday afternoon.There was one change to the Iron’s starting XI in Cheshire, with Tom Hopper being replaced in the attack by Kevin van Veen.
With both Hopper and McAllister the absentees from the squad that travelled to Fleetwood on Tuesday, there were recalls for Terry Hawkridge and matchday captain Neal Bishop to the Scunthorpe bench, with the latter settling for a place amongst the substitutes after returning from a two-match suspension.
The hosts, in their traditional red shirts with white trimmings, kicked off the game shooting from right to left with the visitors, donning their Irish Iron third kit, vice-versa.
Scunthorpe started the opening passages of the game very brightly with McSheffrey delivering two very dangerous balls in to the box after being awarded a free-kick and a corner in quick succession. Liam O’Neil even tried his luck with a looping strike he took on the bounce from an ambitious 30 yards out, but Crewe weren’t without their own sting in the tail at the other end.
Ex-United forward Nicky Ajose tested ‘keeper Daniels with a scuffed shot from inside the area after collecting a lofted pass; with the Leeds loanee looking like the hosts most potent offensive threat from the get-go.
Paddy Madden was looking to get himself amongst the goals again, and he curled an effort on target after smart work by van Veen, but despite not generating a lot of power he still forced Rachubka in to a save.
Just under 20 minutes on the clock and referee Richard Clark brandished the game’s first yellow card after cautioning Iron midfielder Isaiah Osbourne after going in late in the centre of the pitch, but the ascendency very much seemed to be siding with the visitors.
Minutes later Scunthorpe drew the match's first real chance, after neat work for van Veen saw the ball make its way to Townsend wide on the left. The youngster whipped in a devious cross which was inch perfect for the advancing head of O’Neil, but he couldn’t quite keep his attempt on goal down enough to stop it from flying over the crossbar.
The host registered the next noteworthy chance around after a clever passing sequence saw the ball fall to the feet of Anthony Grant on the left side of the area, but his low daisy-cutter strike took a nick on its way through and narrowly zipped wide of Daniels’ post.
Up the other end this time and it was a case of unexpectedness for Paddy Madden. After a slow build up on the left wing, all of a sudden O’Neil found space to drill in a pinpoint perfect cross towards the back-post; however it unfortunately caught Madden slightly off-guard, with the Irishman stooping to head just a fraction too late to be able to turn the ball home for the opener.
As the first half came to a close, there was just enough time for Crewe to trouble Daniels’ goal one more time before the teams retreated to the dressing rooms. A deft low ball from Grant was completely missed by Marcus Haber, but it kindly fell in to the path of the lurking Ajose, but again he sliced his shot as it swerved safely past the post.
The whistle went for the interval, with the two sides still level at 0-0.
Despite kicking off the second half, Scunthorpe were immediately on the back-foot as Crewe flew out of the traps and began to surge forward with attack after attack. They eventually crafted a huge opening after Haber knocked the ball down for the advancing James Jones, who point blank range rifled his effort goal-wards only for Daniels to react stunningly to produce a double-handed parry to his left.
The ball went out for a corner, which Daniels grasped comfortably before quickly releasing to spark a counter-attack. The rapidly made its way up-field before eventually finding Liam O’Neil, who took a touch before taking aim, but his cross-goal shot not only beat Rachubka, but also the far hand post.
Shortly after, the hosts found the opening goal. A free-kick swung in from the right-hand side of the field pin-balled inside the Scunthorpe penalty area before being half-cleared. The ball fell straight to the feet of Greg Leigh who walloped his shot with extreme power and precision, and it flew in off the underside of the bar and over the goal-line to hand Crewe the lead.
Less than a minute later, Crewe had their second. James Jones lofted in a ball from the right hand-side; Haber managed to get the jump on the Iron defence to rise highest and fire a bullet of a header past the helpless Daniels and in to the back of the net, making it two goals in two minutes.
Scunthorpe were in need of inspiration, so on came 18-year-old winger Hakeeb Adelakun for McSheffrey, while Bishop swapped places with Osbourne as United looked to shake things up a bit.
The pressure kept coming from the Railwaymen without actually affecting Daniels’ goal too much, with the Iron trying to regain some control of the game, and it was the bright spark of Adelakun that conjured up United’s most recent chance to reduce the deficit.
A jinking run from Adelakun saw him combine well with Clarke, before receiving the ball back from the full-back before driving at the defence. He twisted this way and that before unleashing a lashed effort goal-wards, which forced Rachubka to scramble across to his near post to smother it out for a corner.
The third and final change for the Iron came when another teenage attacking player made his way on to the field, as Kyle Wootton replaced the Dutchman van Veen. The substitution came just before a succession of corners for Mark Robins’ men, with Canavan’s header from the first deflected out for another on the opposite side, while the second caused a moment of pandemonium in the box before it was kicked in to touch.
With three minutes left of normal time Scunthorpe were awarded a corner. O’Neil pinged in the set-piece which evaded everyone inside the six-yard box before falling to Canavan, who took a touch and lashed a shot towards the inside of the far post, but a last-ditched deflection took round the woodwork and out for another corner.
Just before the four minutes of stoppage time was added on, an advancing O’Neil tried his luck from over 20 yards after finding himself in acres of space, and his effort was a good one, forcing Rachubka again to make a diving safe to keep the scoreline at 2-0.
George Evans shot high and wide during the final few minutes of additional time; as the referee drew the game to a close.
Crewe Alexandra: Rachubka, Guthrie, Davis, Turton, Jones, Leigh, Haber (Dalla Valle, 90+2), Ness (Stewart, 90+2), Tate, Ajose (Atkinson, 88), Grant.
Substitutes not used: Inman, Cooper, Waters, Baillie.
Scunthorpe United: Daniels, Clarke, Davey, Canavan, Townsend, O'Neil, Evans, Osbourne (Bishop, 68), McSheffrey (Adelakun, 67), Madden, van Veen (Wootton, 76).
Substitutes not used: Anyon, Llera, Boyce, Hawkridge.
Attendance: 4,213 (413 away).