After a dominant first-half display the in-form Boston struck late in order to steal a point under the lights.

The Iron were back in front of the Scunthorpe faithful for the first game of 2024, and the first encounter at the newly renamed Attis Arena. United were to face a play-off pushing Pilgrims side that where being steered up the table by the steady hand of experienced manager Ian Culverhouse.

First team manager Jimmy Dean made two alterations to the starting XI that fought valiantly against the brutal conditions at Farsley Celtic a week prior in order to triumph 2-0 winners. Firstly, on his final fixture before his loan expires, winger Connor Smith returned to the line-up in place of the suspended Danny Whitehall. In other news, after being rested at the Citadel, creative orchestrator Jacob Butterfield replaced the versatile Alfie Beestin to partner workhorse Kian Scales in the centre of midfield. 

The hosts were to get the game up and running as a Boston team filled with several familiar faces including goalkeeper Aaron Chapman and defender Jai Rowe looked to secure a vital win in their bid to carry on their recent successes.

The Iron’s phenomenal home form has been aided by their ability to score early goals and this game appeared no different as within the opening ten minutes of action the Pilgrims found themselves a goal down. The goal came from the penalty spot after Cal Roberts superbly weaved his way into the area before being tugged down just inside the white lines. Referee Thomas Wilson hesitated but continued to point toward the spot, and on his return to leading the line striker Danny Elliott remained calm and collected to slot the ball beyond Chapman.

Now with the advantage intact, Scunthorpe seemed intent on building upon it throughout the first period. Roberts appeared to be playing out of his skin as he was forever causing problems for his opposite defender Brad Nicholson. Despite being warned on numerous occasions, Nicholson again allowed the former Newcastle man to again chop inside and unleash a curling effort that crept just wide of the onlooking Chapman’s far post.

With the game still only separated by one goal, the visitors proceeded to remind Jimmy Dean’s players that they were more than still in the game. In doing this Boston called goalkeeper Ross Fitzsimons into action for the first time in the 33rd minute as a scintillating strike from talented forward Jimmy Knowles moved at the last minute and forced Fitzsimons to react quickly and palm the ball behind for a corner.

The resulting corner went on to be the chance that the Pilgrims had been waiting for, as they clawed their way back into proceedings with a scrappy equaliser. A deep lofted corner managed to evade all Iron efforts to clear the ball away and as a result the ball found former Kidderminster Harriers defender Tom Leak who unconvincingly shin rolled the ball past Fitzsimons to draw the game level.

The equaliser didn’t seem to faze Scunthorpe, however, as they immediately resumed their rampant hunt for a second goal of the afternoon. It didn’t take long to find it however as Elliott grabbed his second of the game after he was presented a seemingly simple chance, after some magnificent Scales trickery allowed him to slide a low ball across the box for Elliott to smash home from point blank range.

With the half-time break imminent, Boston came exceedingly close to levelling the score line once more, as a harmless bouncing ball 20 yards from goal soon caused panic around the Attis Arena as experienced front man Jacob Hazel rattled a first-time effort off Fitzsimons’ crossbar after he lofted the ball over the head of the shot stopper and onto the woodwork.

With the sides back out for the period of play, the Pilgrims had plenty of work to do as the red-hot form of Elliott had proved too much for Culverhouse’s players up to that point. 

Unsurprisingly, Elliott was flying high on confidence, and he came inches away from securing his desired hat-trick against his former club when he broke the offside Boston offside line to latch onto a floated Butterfield pass. Qith players in support, Elliott had one thing set on his mind, however the match ball glimmered before his eyes as his low stuck effort skidded beyond Chapman’s far post.

Boston were still within touching distance of gaining a valuable point on the road, as their push for an equaliser came close to being granted just before the sixty minute mark. Against the run of play, the visitors almost capitalised on United’s failure to clear the ball as possession fell kindly to substitute Keaton Ward who swept the ball over the bar from a promising position much to the relief of Fitzsimons.

The next fifteen minutes of play were comprised of numerous half-chances and cynical fouls to delay play from continuing at a consistent speed. This theme continued until a sensational Scunthorpe move could’ve and arguably should’ve resulted in a third goal for United. Roberts received stroke of luck as loose ball bounced clear of his marker allowing his to stride in behind, before picking out the steaming run of the Scales who could merely direct his effort into the body of Chapman who deflected the ball clear of danger.

With time running out, the Iron would live to regret the missed opportunities as the Pilgrims would strike and punish them right at the encounter’s death. The visitors had seen luck on their side all afternoon, and it appeared no different when the ball found an unmarked Hazel on the edge of the area who span and finessed the ball delicately past Fitzsimons before celebrating in front of the dismayed home supporters.

The late goal from Hazel was to be the game’s last notable action as Wilson sounded his whistle to signal that Scunthorpe were resigned to a point at the Attis Arena with the visitors coming back from behind on two occasions.

IRON: Fitzsimons, Ogle, Evans, Boyce, Clunan, Elliott, Roberts (Kelly, 89), Butterfield (Beestin, 59), Scales, Smith (Shrimpton, 64), Denton.

IRON SUBS: Kouogun, Wilson.

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