The Iron fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of high-flying Portsmouth on Saturday afternoon at Glanford Park. Lee Novak netted for Scunthorpe in the second half, but two quick Pompey goals in the opening period secured the victory for the visitors.
Manager Stuart McCall made three changes from the side that beat Bristol Rovers 2-1 last time out. Cameron Burgess, James Horsfield and George Thomas all came into the starting line-up to replace the trio of James Perch, Ryan Colclough and Ike Ugbo.
After a quick change of ends, with Scunthorpe kicking from left-to-right, the referee blew his whistle to get the game underway. Matthew Lund took the kick-off and a cagey opening five minutes followed.
The Iron then had the first opportunity to attack. Lund was pulled back midway inside the Pompey half, winning a free-kick. The ball was floated in by George Thomas, however Portsmouth dealt with the aerial threat well to clear the danger.
Shortly after, Scunthorpe came at Pompey again. Jak Alnwick started the break by spreading the ball out wide to Funso Ojo, who brilliantly laid it off first time to Lee Novak. The striker then played it through to Andy Dales who made a run into the area. He jinked inside on his right foot, before dragging his shot back towards the near post, but the goalkeeper got down to save the deflected effort.
Then, ten minutes in, Portsmouth had their first chance, when a cross from the left flank was dangerously whipped in. Matthew Clarke met it with his head, but glanced wide of the post.
Scunthorpe were then dealt an early setback, when Ojo had to be replaced three minutes later after going down injured on the edge of box following a speculative shot. Ugbo came on in his place.
Ugbo wasted no time in getting into action, surging forward down the right. His trickery caused all sorts of problems for the Pompey defence who were forced to put the ball into touch for a corner.
Thomas took the resulting corner and Lund rose highest to win the header which went just over the top of the crossbar – the closest either team had come to scoring so far.
With 15 minutes to go before half-time, Portsmouth unleashed a quick counter down the right, leading to free-kick near the corner flag. Gareth Evans crossed it in, with Oliver Hawkins running on to it at the near post. He tried to flick his header into the far corner, but the ball dropped past the post.
Pompey continued to apply the pressure and soon found themselves in the lead after 35 minutes. Tom Naylor was the goalscorer, hooking the ball into the back of the net after a corner from Jack Whatmough was sent deep into the area.
As the half-time break approached, Portsmouth doubled their advantage. Evans, the Pompey captain, made a run into the area, before latching onto a throughball and finishing right-footed in the top left corner, lifting it over Alnwick, to leave the goalkeeper with no chance.
The fourth official then indicated a minimum of three minutes added time, but no further chances were created, leaving Portsmouth heading into the interval with a two-goal lead.
As the teams emerged for the second half, the Iron were without Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who was substituted for Lewis Butroid at half-time after appearing to pick up an injury late on in the first half.
The referee then blew for the final 45 minutes to start and, within seconds, Portsmouth had won a free-kick on the edge of the area. Lee Brown was the man standing over it. He looked to curl one into the top corner, but his effort flew over the bar.
On the 58 minute mark, Evans had another opportunity for Portsmouth. Hawkins won his header in the area, before sending the ball back across for the lurking Evans in the six-yard-box. He tried to smash it into the net, but instead blazed over.
With the Iron trailing, they looked for a response and Novak was the man to provide it on 60 minutes, thumping the ball into the net with a fantastic first-time volley after Craig MacGillivray had initially parried into the striker’s path.
Scunthorpe then made their third and final substitution with Stephen Humphrys coming on to replace James Horsfield.
A series of Iron shots followed, leaving Portsmouth struggling on the back foot. The last effort came from Thomas, who looked to bend the ball into the top left corner and saw the ball shave the top of goal – inches from the back of the net.
As the match entered the later stages, the Iron pushed for an equaliser. With ten minutes to go, Thomas whipped in a low free-kick wide on the right, which was millimetres away from somebody getting a touch and steering it goalwards.
Portsmouth’s Clarke then hacked down Novak, to give Thomas another opportunity to deliver into the box. However, this time Pompey stood their ground to divert the ball clear.
With the clock ticking past 90 minutes, there were five additional minutes to be played, but tried as they might, the Iron couldn’t quite an equalising goal to snatch a point at Glanford Park.
Scunthorpe United: Alnwick, Borthwick-Jackson (Butroid, 45), Ojo (Ugbo, 13), Lund, Horsfield (Humphrys, 75), Dales, Novak, Thomas, Goode, Burgess, McArdle (C).
Substitutes not used: Flatt, Morris, Ben El-Mhanni, Wootton.
Portsmouth: MacGillivray, Brown, Clarke, Naylor, Hawkins, Lowe (Wheeler, 84), Curtis, Whatmough, N. Thompson, Evans (C) (Burgess, 79), B. Thompson.
Substitutes not used: McGee, Walkes, Pitman, Close, Haunstrup.
Referee: Martin Coy.