The Iron were beaten 3-2 at Gillingham on Saturday afternoon.
United led 2-0 through goals from Paddy Madden and Harry Toffolo, but three penalties by Josh Wright saw all three points go the way of the hosts.
There were two changes to the Scunthorpe team which started against Charlton Athletic during the week, with Jamie Ness replacing the injured Josh Morris, and Tom Hopper coming into the line-up in place of Duane Holmes.
Graham Alexander’s men flew out the traps early on and, with their first attack, they got themselves ahead.
The visitors’ initial approach play was superb, with Kevin van Veen eventually being found on the corner of the penalty area. The Dutchman then precisely cut the ball back for Paddy Madden, who arrived on cue to tuck home from close range.
Madden and the Iron’s tally for the afternoon could have been quickly doubled minutes later, after the forward latched onto a stray backwards pass from the home side. However, despite getting to the ball fastest, United’s number nine poked just wide under pressure from an onrushing Stuart Nelson.
Scunthorpe’s advantage was almost wiped out on 12 minutes though, and it would have been if not for some heroics from skipper Stephen Dawson. Opposing captain Max Ehmer’s header was on target and past Luke Daniels, but Dawson showed terrific reactions to hook the ball off the line.
Opportunities kept lending themselves to the Iron, with van Veen the next to try his luck just after the half an hour mark. His central free-kick was well struck, but unfortunately a fraction too high to trouble Nelson in the Gillingham goal.
United’s attacking threat was constant, as was Madden’s presence in and around the Gills’ penalty area. His poacher’s instincts were apparent five minutes prior to the interval, when he got on the end of a flick-on from Hopper to force a smart save out of Nelson.
A superb piece of vision from Ness then unlocked the defence and sent Hopper on his way. However, as the striker bore down on goal, Chris Herd made an inch perfect recovery challenge to pinch the ball away.
That opening for Hopper would prove to be the last act of the opening period, with the away side holding a slender lead at the break.
After the restart, Adrian Pennock’s team applied a sustained spell of pressure, with an Ehmer header the pick of the half-chances which were created.
In spite of Gillingham’s pushing, the Iron looked able to turn on the style in the blink of an eye. They cut the hosts open seven minutes into the half with another slick passing move that involved Madden, Dawson and van Veen. The latter then set his sights from the left corner of the box, and drew a good stop out of Nelson.
Just before the hour mark, Dawson and Madden combined again. Madden’s initial skill was exquisite, as he produced an excellent flick to get around his man on half-way. He then had an effort blocked, with Dawson following up with a shot that flew wide.
A second did eventually come for Alexander and his team. Harry Toffolo was the man who got it, with the full-back picking the ball up from distance and then unleashing a dipping drive that flew past Nelson and into the far corner of the goal.
With 13 minutes left on the clock, the Gills reduced the deficit through Josh Wright. After Bradley Dack was brought down in the penalty area, former Scunthorpe man Wright stepped up and put the ball out of the reach of Daniels.
Just five minutes later, referee Robert Lewis pointed to the spot once more - this time for a handball in the United penalty area. There were no nerves from Wright as, for the second time, he calmly dispatched from 12 yards.
Remarkably, the drama wasn't finished there, as the hosts were awarded a third penalty of the match. Wright then completed his hat-trick with a coolly taken kick.
Late opportunities then came the way of Jordan Clarke and substitute Craig Davies, but the Iron couldn’t find a route back into the match, with referee Lewis bringing proceedings to a close minutes later.
Gillingham: Nelson, Herd (Osadebe 46), Ehmer, Oshilaja, McDonald, Martin (Hessenthaler 73), Quigley (Parker 67), Dack, Rehman, Byrne, Wright.
Substitutes not used: Holy, List, Dickenson, Muldoon.
Scunthorpe United: Daniels, Wallace, Mirfin (Davies 89), Dawson, Madden, van Veen, Hopper (Toney 86), Toffolo, Ness (Bishop 75), Crooks, Clarke.
Substitutes not used: Anyon, Wiseman, Holmes, Goode.
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