Karl Robinson's first home game in charge of the U's ended in a 1-1 draw this afternoon as his side picked up a point against Scunthorpe. Trailing to Ivan Toney's opener in the first half United dragged themselves back into the game through a James Henry penalty in a much improved second half to earn Robinson his first draw as Manager.
United were desperately unlucky not to take an early lead in the sixth minute when Todd Kane slipped a superb pass behind the defence for Wes Thomas to run on to. United’s top scorer held off a defender and got his shot on target but keeper Matt Gilks was equal to it and somehow got down to his left to push it round the post. That proved to be their best chance of the first half as Scunthorpe ran the show.
Having sacked Graham Alexander earlier in the week the away side maybe had a point to prove and had already three early efforts go close without troubling Simon Eastwood before they were ahead after 12 minuteswith their first effort on target. Hakeeb Adelakun created it with a strong run into the box and a powerful low effort that Eastwood got down well to push out, but the ball cannoned back to hit the onrushing Toney and sneak inside the near post to give Scunthorpe the lead.
Adelakun sliced another good chance over on 19 minutes, Josh Morris tested Eastwood’s handling on 22 and the lively Duane Holmes smacked a 24th minute effort against the base of the left hand post as the visitors created the best opportunities: Henry also cleared one off the line from a corner with the forearm part of his chest and Rob Dickie had to smash a Jordan Clarke header off the line as the Iron showed more steel for 45 minutes. Murray Wallace drilled wide when he had the freedom of the penalty area just before the break and United were fortunate to only be a goal behind at that stage.
Scunthorpe may not be a place full of swimming pools and movie stars but over the last decade or so they have constantly produced good teams who play decent football and are always around the play-off places, and this season they have been in that top group throughout. Holmes, Morris and Toney caught the eye going forward but they were also well organised at the back , hard working across midfield, and United struggled to make an impression before the break despite the return to the starting eleven of the creative Joe Rothwell.
However after the break it was a completely different story.
Resisting the urge to make changes at the break Robinson gave the same eleven a chance to step things up and Henry curled an early effort into the arms of Gilks but when the change did come it proved inspired. Jon Obika, on for Wes Thomas, had only just been introduced when he popped up on the left side of the box and bore down on goal. Clarke bundled him over and United had a priceless penalty. Up stepped Henry to wrong foot Gilks and United were on level terms again from a textbook penalty: no goading, no slapping, just a goal to set them moving forward.
Scunthorpe were still committed to attack but United were now pushing more men forward and the game was far more end to end. Adelakun curled an effort against the bar on 63 but there were loud shouts for handball at the other end two minutes later as Obika again made a nuisance of himself inside the box.
In driving rain both sides went for the win rather than settle for a point with United's midfield now on top and Scunthorpe looking to get in behind them as the U's left gaps. There weren't too many clear chances but the home defence had tightened up and there had been plenty of encouraging elements that Robinson can work with as he stamps his mark on this side. They might even have won it in injury time when Ruffels burst into the box put put the last chance of the game too close to Gilks.
Scunthorpe will be frustrated not to have earned more from their first half display but the U's had shown resolve and deserved their point on character alone.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, Stats by OPTA