Scunthorpe United were defeated 4-1 by Plymouth Argyle at Glanford Park on Saturday afternoon in Sky Bet League One.
The visitors went ahead through first-half goals from Freddie Ladapo and Niall Canavan, only for Lee Novak to pull one back in the second-half for the Iron before Joel Grant and Antoni Sarcevic settled the contest.
Boss Stuart McCall entered the game having made three changes from the team that started at Blackpool in midweek. Funso Ojo, Andy Dales and Cameron Burgess made way - replaced by James Horsfield, George Thomas and Ike Ugbo.
In the opening minutes, it was the visitors who carved out the first chance of the day. After stringing together a series of passes the ball reached Plymouth’s Graham Carey, who pushed it out of his feet and shot over from around 20 yards with Jak Alnwick – in truth - untroubled.
Two minutes on, the green-and-white shirted visitors won a free-kick through the tricky Joel Grant out on the wing. That was played high into the Iron box, and after a few unsettled moments was eased clear by the defence.
Scunthorpe then showed their first attacking threat of the afternoon when Stephen Humphrys drove over the centre-circle, into the visitor’s half and released Ryan Colclough with ten minutes on the clock. The United winger then sprinted for the byline and cut the ball back to win a corner – which was well-cleared by the visiting defence.
Yet almost immediately after this the Green Army worked themselves ahead in North Lincolnshire when Freddie Ladapo fired home. Following the corner Joel Grant had broken and rolled the ball across the area where Clarke stabbed clear to avert a goal – a slightly unheeded warning. Next passage, the ball found its way to Ladapo and at the back-post his effort took a slight deflection to burrow into the corner of the net.
It was, however, a strike that provoked a reaction out of the Iron. Instantly, they seemed to find attacking intent, pushing forward and moving the ball around well in the attacking third. James Perch managed a header on target after Charlie Goode knocked the ball into his path, although Matt Macey was equal to it.
Continuing to push on, on the 25-minute mark, Scunthorpe came close once more. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson coolly settled himself on the left-wing before seeing Humphrys in space at the near-post. His crossed ball in was delicate and precise – but Humphry’s flick towards goal was a little too heavy and bounced up for Macey to collect. With the Iron much more in the groove by this point, Ike Ugbo then stormed up the left-wing and flashed a shot left-to-right which, with the angle against him, flew narrowly wide.
Following that, the rest of the half looked as if it was going to be played out with little else of note occurring but with the Iron growing in stature. Indeed, United continued to see more of the ball and to work it around inside the visitor’s half – coming closest when Bothwick-Jackson had a further cross cleared and when Ryan Colclough arrowed an effort wide from outside the box after a neat passage of play.
But just as the fourth official’s board went up to signal two additional minutes, the visiting side notched goal number two of the day – from ex-Iron Canavan. Argyle won a corner out on the left, and the centre-back rose highest at the near-post to flick across goal, past Jak Alnwick and into the far-side net. The whistle went seconds later, with the Devon side 2-0 ahead.
Before the start of the second-half, United made one alteration to their team – replacing Humphrys with Novak. The away side, who remained unchanged, then got the game back underway.
Signalling attacking intent from the off, Colclough quickly took possession and shot up the wing. Ugbo and Novak both sprinted through the middle in support – but the winger’s cross had just a little bit too much on it – although it did give the crowd a boost.
But what gave the crowd a greater boost was the goal that United pulled back with 50 minutes played. It came after the ball was squared low to Ike Ugbo, who took a touch to get the ball out of his feet before firing at goal. Desperately, his shot was blocked by an Argyle defender – only to fall perfectly for Novak to smash into the bottom-left corner despite Macey’s best efforts.
And the leveller nearly followed. In full attacking flow by this point, United launched another cross into the box which Novak connected with. Somehow, Macey stooped low to palm the ball away from point-blank range, with Novak immediately picking it back up with his back to goal. Under pressure, the striker chose to stand the ball up at the far-post where Ugbo bundled home – only for the goal to be ruled out (after lengthy deliberations with the referee) by the linesman.
Smelling blood, the Iron came again looking stronger than ever and like a team about to equalise. Camped in the Plymouth box, Novak and Perch combined well before slotting the ball into the path of Ugbo who shot narrowly wide with the defence very much on the back-foot. Back in the box again, Colclough then went down under a challenge with Glanford Park screaming desperately for a penalty but the referee awarding only a yellow card for simulation.
Then, completely against the run of play, came another goal: 3-1 Plymouth, one hour played. Just as Glanford Park had really started to believe – just as the players had started to pepper the Plymouth goal – the away side restored their advantage. Unfortunately, a quick counter-attack caught out an Iron side who had committed themselves forward, and at the back-post Joel Grant was able to storm in and convert home a low cross.
It took United a few minutes to recover from that bitter pill, and when they did so they began to fight valiantly once more – despite the fact that wind had clearly been knocked from their sails. Wootton was introduced from the bench in place of Ugbo with 15 minutes to go, but it was to have little impact in terms of the outcome – although he did manage to swerve a header at goal which Canavan nodded clear – and to smash narrowly off-target under pressure having charged into the box.
With five minutes left the Iron did win and nearly convert a corner, but by this point the game had started to fizzle out. United had huffed and puffed but had been unable to find a second goal to put them back into the contest; and Plymouth were by this point perfectly content to absorb any pressure. The corner itself found McArdle, but the defender’s effort was cleared off the line to keep it at 3-1.
Yet deep into stoppage time there was time for one more goal – as Argyle extended their tally for the afternoon to four. After an instalment of pinball in the box in which Scunthorpe couldn’t clear the ball, Sarcevic slotted home with what was practically the last kick of the match.
Scunthorpe United: Alnwick, Clarke, Borthwick-Jackson, Horsfield, Ugbo (Wootton, 78), Humphrys (Novak, 45), Perch, Thomas, Goode, McArdle, Colclough.
Substitutes not used: Flatt, Dales, Burgess, Sutton, Butroid.
Plymouth Argyle: Macey, Songo’o, Ness, Sarcevic, Fox (O’Keefe, 85), Carey, Canavan, C Grant, J Grant, Ladapo, Moore.
Substitutes not used: Letheren, Lameiras, Wylde, Smith-Brown, P Grant, Jephcott.