A late goal from captain Niall Canavan earned Scunthorpe United a point, during a 2-2 draw at Meadow Lane on Saturday afternoon.A debut strike from Theo Robinson inside two minutes handed the Iron the lead before Gary Jones and Balint Bajner turned the game on its head, but Canavan’s thumping header ensured a share of the spoils.
United boss Mark Robins made four changes to the side that went down 4-0 at Sheffield United on Tuesday night, with Marcus Williams, Alex Davey and George Evans replacing Conor Townsend, Miguel Llera and John Lundstram. New recruit Theo Robinson arrived on loan from Doncaster Rovers on Thursday on a short-term loan, and he replaces Hakeeb Adelakun on the right-hand side of the attack.
After the disappointment of Tuesday night, the Iron - in their green third kit - needed something to special to start off this tricky tie, and through new boy Robinson, they found it inside two minutes.
After Gary McSheffrey’s initial corner was tipped over the bar by Notts’ stand-in ‘keeper Kevin Pilkington, George Evans swept in the set-piece from the opposite side.
The ball was only half-cleared by the County defence, falling at a perfect height for Paddy Madden to get a clear head in on goal. It cannoned back off the cross-bar after Pilkington got a finger to it, however Theo Robinson was on hand to squeeze the rebound over the line from four yards out, and send the travelling Scunthorpe fans into raptures and dream debut for the loanee.
This stung the hosts into life, and they could have had a real opportunity to force the visitors' hand just a few minutes later as they broke from deep, but a lunge on the attacker by Madden as he tried to prevent the sweeping move pick up steam resulted in a yellow for the Irishman, a decision that wasn’t most popular amongst the home support.
The Magpies, under new caretaker manager Paul Hart, needed to be revitalised with the game an important one for both sides, and they came close to drawing level when former Iron striker Jimmy Spencer rose highest to meet a timely cross and nod towards goal, forcing a superb stop out of Luke Daniels.
The barrage continued, and with the run of play they got their reward for their persistence as they equalised just before the 10 minute mark.
County were awarded a free-kick from little over 20-yards out, and experienced midfielder Gary Jones stepped up to rifle his low effort past the wall and in to Daniels’ bottom left hand corner, a scorching strike hit with some power.
Spencer seemed in some mood to score his first goal since his long-injury lay off that has kept him out all season, returning to the side for their 4-1 defeat to MK Dons, and his acrobatic effort from a corner wasn’t far away from hitting the target.
Shortly after it was Spencer again who was in the thick of the attack, after a neat intricate move saw the striker slip through the defence and in on goal, but Daniels raced out to close him down.
Despite a lack of chances, Scunthorpe began to pick up the pace in terms of their passing and attacking movement, with Robinson’s deflected effort flying just over the bar, in a bid to add to his tally for the day.
As we hit the 30 minute mark, the visitors were handed a huge opportunity to regain the lead after Isaiah Osbourne was clattered on the edge of the area. Only a yard outside of the box, McSheffrey whipped his shot low and around the wall, but the smallest of nicks on its way towards goal forced in agonizingly round the post with Pilkington a mere spectator.
Former Manchester United and England midfielder Alan Smith joined Madden in referee Paul Tierney’s book after his reaction to a decision given against him was met by a yellow card. Moments later County did come close to grabbing their second after another ex-Iron player Gary Thompson played a give-and-go on the half-way line before scuffing his shot just wide of the post.
With the game starting to heat up, a fiery affair forced another booking, this time for McSheffrey after a scything tackle of Liam Noble down by the touch-line.
With half-time drawing near, there was just enough time for Jordan Clarke to let fly from 35-yards, with his speculative effort forcing Pilkington to produce a save after being unsighted, with Robinson lurking menacingly.
After a 15 minute break period we were back underway, and just like the first half it was Scunthorpe who carved the first opening.
A long ball played up to Robinson was superbly controlled by the no.24, before using the outside of the foot to play in the marauding McSheffrey. The winger was in on goal, but Pilkington used his expertise to roll back the years to deny him getting closer to goal, smothering his toe poked effort just inside the box.
County were up next to bat with Lincoln City loanee Sean Newton standing over a free-kick some 25-yards from goal, and he wasn’t far off as his curled effort pinging against the cross-bar on its way over Daniels’ net.
Both sides battled to take the ascendency, as the hosts made the first change of the afternoon, replacing Spencer with Hungarian forward Balint Bajner.
With Notts County starting to edge possession and keeping the ball quite frequently in the Iron half, Nicky Wroe replaced Alan Smith in midfield. However within seconds of the substitution, the Magpies dealt a bitter blow.
A daisy-cutter cross from the right evaded everyone in the penalty area before ending up at the feet of Bajner, and after just nine minutes on the pitch, he drilled home from 12-yards to give his side the lead for the first time in the game.
The reaction from manager Mark Robins was an offensive one, with central midfielder George Evans replaced in favour of Dutch striker Kevin van Veen, with 13 minutes of normal time left on the clock.
A McSheffrey corner produced Scunthorpe’s first chance in well over 20 minutes as Madden found himself unmarked in the area, but he couldn’t squeeze his header past the melee of players, as it flew out for a goal-kick.
Robinson was next to have a go after some neat skill saw him slip past Adams on the by-line, but he couldn’t curl his shot on target.
The pace and trickery of Adelakun was released as he swapped places with Paddy Madden on the 81st minute, with the 18-year old coming off the bench for a very important 10 minute period.
An important period indeed, and it was none other than stand-in captain Niall Canavan who drew Scunthorpe level.
A McSheffrey free-kick from over 40-yards out was arrowed in perfectly, with Canavan out-muscling his opponent to plant his header down past Pilkington, and heroically grab the all-important equaliser with just five minutes remaining.
Robinson was clearly hungry to grab his second and make the headlines, but he couldn’t break free of the last defender as he battled in to the box, but unfortunately was booked after being deemed to have fouled the goalkeeper as he stretched to make contact with the ball.
The fourth official board went up to signal a healthy six minutes of additional time, with both teams going at it hammer and tongs to find a winning goal.
With four of those minutes passed, Adelakun earned United a chance to pack the box after his cross was deflected out off a Notts defender. McSheffrey sent it in, and at the back post Davey was there to smash a header goalwards, but lifted it just over the bar.
County pressed forward in a hope of fashioning their own last gasp chance, but referee Tierney dispelled those hopes by blowing his whistle, to end the game all square at two goals apiece.
Notts County: Pilkington, Dumbuya (Adams, 75), Smith (Wroe, 72), Mullins ©, Hollis, Spencer (Bajner, 64), G.Thompson, Newton, Jones, Noble, Williams.
Substitutes not used: Speiss, Hayhurst, Burke, Edwards.
Scunthorpe United: Daniels, Clarke, Davey, Canavan ©, Williams, O'Neil, Evans (van Veen, 77), Osbourne, McSheffrey, Robinson, Madden (Adelakun, 81).
Substitutes not used: Anyon, McAllister, Townsend, Boyce, Wootton.
Attendance: 4,990 (567 away).