The Iron picked up a hard-earned point in a fiery top-of-the-table fixture against Sheffield United on Saturday afternoon.Paddy Madden put Scunthorpe ahead just after the break with a real poacher’s finish before Billy Sharp levelled things up in what was a frantic start to the second-half.
Scunthorpe were forced to finish the clash with 10 men as Harry Toffolo received his marching orders for two bookable offences but the team dug in to secure a valuable 1-1 draw.
Manager Graham Alexander made three changes to the side that drew with Walsall in midweek as Neal Bishop and Kevin van Veen returned and there was also a first United start for midfielder Matt Crooks.
That meant Duane Holmes and Ivan Toney slipped to the bench at Bramall Lane whilst Jamie Ness missed out on a place in the matchday squad.
The hosts started brightly and had the game’s opening chance after a few minutes as Daniel Lafferty beat his man on the left before crossing for Sharp, who fired just over when well placed 12 yards out.
Sharp then turned provider as he teed up Mark Duffy, whose cool effort whizzed inches past Luke Daniels’ upright and James Hanson also tested the Iron number one with a firm header that was confidently pushed away.
Scunthorpe responded with an opportunity of their own at the other end as neat interplay eventually saw Levi Sutton find captain Stephen Dawson in space and his long range drive flew only just wide as Blades goalkeeper Simon Moore scrambled down to the right.
It was another Dubliner who next went close for the Iron when Madden composed himself before striking a half-volley over and Toffolo then made an expert last-ditch sliding challenge to deny Sharp moments later.
Towering centre forward Hanson forced Daniels into further action, meeting Duffy’s centre with a powerful nodded attempt and the fixture began heating up prior to half-time following a series of feisty tackles, one that saw van Veen’s name jotted down in the book.
The interval arrived with the contest goalless but it didn’t stay that way for long as both sides came out rejuvenated and things sparked very much into life.
Scunthorpe made the perfect start to the second period when Dawson’s low right-wing cross was tapped in by Madden from close range, sparking scenes of jubilation amongst the 2,850 strong away end.
Just moments later however, the home team equalised as Sharp reacted to a loose ball in the box before firing beyond Daniels and two goals had been scored in rapid succession.
There was an additional setback soon after as Toffolo was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence after a foul inside the Iron half but that didn’t stop Alexander’s men from going close to bagging again as Madden’s nonchalant effort curled narrowly wide.
Full-back Lafferty then dragged an attempt from distance past the post and John Fleck fired over as the South Yorkshire outfit looked to make their numerical advantage count with a succession of threatening attacks.
The Iron opted for a couple of changes as the clash entered its final 20 minutes, with Tom Hopper replacing van Veen up front and Sam Manton coming on for Crooks in midfield, who had gone down after picking up a knock.
Blades substitute Caolan Lavery tested the glove work of Daniels with a poked shot in the area as the hosts continued to pile forward before Sharp passed up a golden opportunity to put Chris Wilder’s table toppers ahead, miscuing an instinctive effort from deep inside the six yard box.
As the clock ticked down, Scunthorpe still had one eye on three points and almost bagged them when Madden hit Mantom’s teasing cross against the post and Jay O’Shea did likewise for the hosts in injury time but 1-1 was how it remained.
Sheffield United: Moore, Fleck, O’Connell (Done, 90+3), Basham, Sharp, Wright, Coutts, Hanson (Lavery, 79), Freeman, Duffy, Lafferty (O’Shea, 83).
Substitutes not used: Long, Riley, Ebanks-Landell, Carruthers.
Scunthorpe United: Daniels, Wallace, Mirfin, Dawson, Madden (Davies, 90+3), van Veen (Hopper, 71), Morris, Bishop, Toffolo, Crooks (Mantom, 77), Sutton.
Substitutes not used: Anyon, Holmes, Goode, Toney.
Attendance: 27,980 (2,850 away).
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