Scunthorpe United ran out as 2-0 winners against play-off chasing Leyton Orient in their Sky Bet League 2 clash at the Sands Venue Stadium on Saturday.
The result completed back-to-back victories for the Iron and also constituted their first home win since September. It was sealed by a fine first-half header from Ryan Loft and a second-half strike from Alfie Beestin (his first goal for the club), both of which followed an early penalty save by goalkeeper Mark Howard.
United entered the match brimming with confidence following Tuesday night’s convincing 5-2 victory away at Harrogate Town, and somewhat unsurprisingly named an unchanged lineup.
That meant Mark Howard starting between the sticks, with a defensive line of captain Jordan Clarke, Harrison McGahey, Emmanuel Onariase and Mason O’Malley.
Alex Gilliead, Lewis Spence, Alfie Beestin and Abo Eisa were deployed in midfield with John McAtee and Ryan Loft up in attack.
In the chilly conditions, the visitors were quickly out of the blocks. They won a couple of very early corners, which Alfie Beestin played an integral part in ushering clear. United then broke, with Gilliead shooting just over from the edge of the box.
Five minutes in, United nearly found themselves a goal behind when Orient were awarded a penalty. Ryan Loft was adjudged to have handled an Orient cross, only for in-form Danny Johnson to step-up and see his effort well-saved by the legs of goalkeeper Mark Howard.
Howard’s stock increased further a few moments later when Conor Wilkinson tried his luck from the edge of the box. Yet the experienced stopper was equal to it – tipping the effort just over the bar before United dealt with the resulting corner.
After a quarter of an hour, it would be fair to assess that Scunthorpe didn’t have as much of a foothold in the game as they might have desired. Leyton Orient came again, this time with Ousseynou Cisse. He took charge of a bobbling loose ball outside the area – seeing his deflected half-volley ultimately roll against the post.
More promisingly, a United attack soon followed. After drawing a corner, Alex Gilliead nearly broke the deadlock, connecting with Abo Eisa’s cross and glancing an effort at goal which goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux had to react quickly to push wide.
However, Orient were back looking dangerous in the twentieth minute when Jobi McAnuff flashed an effort wide from eighteen-yards. James Brophy had made progress down the wing and attempted to roll a cross into the box, and when a deflection took it McAnuff’s way he probably should have scored.
This sort of indecisiveness from Orient in the opening minutes was to come back and haunt them - twenty-seven minutes had gone when Scunthorpe managed to edge into the lead. Mason O’Malley was the creator, latching on to the ball on the left-wing before sending in a beautifully weighted cross which Ryan Loft was on-hand to nod into the near top-corner – his second goal in as many games.
Following the strike, Scunthorpe grew in confidence as they managed to see more of the ball and to dictate more of the play. Notably, five minutes after scoring, Alfie Beestin managed to creep into the area and nudge the ball across the six-yard box, but a couple of loose Orient legs managed to shunt clear.
That said, before the break, there was time for one more piece of accomplished goalkeeping by Mark Howard. The away side’s Conor Wilkinson managed to pop up at the back-stick to get on the end of deep cross into the box, re-directing the ball menacingly back across goal in search of a free white-shirted player. Not wanting to take any chances, Howard threw himself into its path and got enough of a hand to it to nullify the danger.
Soon afterwards, referee Ross Joyce blew his whistle to signal the end of the half with United a goal to the good and contented with a first-half performance which grew in stature as it progressed.
The second half commenced with United searching for a second goal. In their first serious attack - after two minutes of the period - Ryan Loft managed to cushion the ball into the path of John McAtee. However, he had more time than he realised and sent a rising effort over the bar.
Orient then had two chances with around fifty minutes on the clock. First, Louis Dennis held his ground in the box to take down a looping ball, turn and spin a shot inches wide of the far-post. Then, Jordan Clarke scraped the crossbar with a defensive header following a right-wing cross by the Londoners.
Widdowson and Dennis then combined just before the hour mark. The O’s left-back made space for himself on the wing and picked out his teammate with a searching cross. But rather than heading first-time, Dennis tried to bring the ball down and bicycle kick it – which gave United’s defence enough time to surround him. That was his last meaningful input, with Craig Clay replacing him moments later.
Despite these Orient chances, Scunthorpe were still seeing plenty of the ball – they were just struggling to get the final pass into the box. Yet that all changed in the 63rd minute, when Abo Eisa slalomed into the area and teed-up John McAtee, who was slightly off balance when he pulled the trigger. This gave Vigouroux a fighting chance to produce the excellent stop which he managed.
With around twenty minutes to go, Orient won a free-kick which was then cleared for a corner. Brophy attempted to send it into the path of Wilkinson, but the Iron defence maintained their concentration to see the ball clear. Widdowson and Wilkinson were then withdrawn, with Lee Angol and Ruel Sotiriou brought on for the visitors.
The Orient pair were involved immediately: the former feeding the latter who rolled a shot towards the far-corner which Howard was (again) equal to. This time, he scrambled across his line to claw the ball away from goal. Straight after, goalscorer Loft and his attack partner McAtee were withdrawn by boss Neil Cox, with Aaron Jarvis and Jake Taylor brought on in their places.
By around the 77th minute, things could have started to feel a little nervous inside the Sands Venue Stadium. United had held their ground diligently, but with only a one-goal advantage, an onslaught from the away side seemed inevitable. That was until Alfie Beestin had his say – stepping around his man outside the box before firing a low shot straight into the bottom corner. It was his first Iron goal, and essentially quashed any potential rebellion from the O’s.
For the final ten minutes, Devarn Green was introduced to the match in place of Abo Eisa. But in this time, very little of note took place. There was some huffing, puffing and frustrating from Orient, yet United maintained their composure, remained solid and kept the clean sheet. 2-0 it finished.
IRON: Howard, Clarke, McGahey, Onariase, Gilliead, Loft (Jarvis, 72), Eisa (Green, 81), Spence, Beestin, O’Malley, McAtee (Taylor, 72).
IRON SUBS: Watson, Bedeau, Hallam, Rowe.
ORIENT: Vigouroux, Ling, Widdowson (Angol, 70), Cisse, Happe, Coulson, McAnuff, Wilkinson (Sotiriou, 70), Brophy, Dennis (Clay, 58), Johnson.
ORIENT SUBS: Sargeant, Dayton, Akinola, Kyprianou.