Scunthorpe United 3 Harrogate Town 1: Sulphurites made to pay for defensive lapse

One moment of dreadful schoolboy defending would ultimately prove very costly as Harrogate Town lost out on the road at Scunthorpe United.

Saturday, 20th February 2021, 5:19 pm
Josh March netted his third penalty in four matches to draw Harrogate Town level in the first half of Saturday's clash with Scunthorpe United. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

In the ascendancy having recovered from the blow of conceding an early goal, Simon Weaver's men failed to defend a simple ball over the top in first-half stoppage-time and never really did enough to get back into the game after the break.

A snow-enforced abandonment of their recent clash with Bradford City meant that it was three weeks since hosts Scunthorpe had completed 90 minutes of football, but they showed no initial signs of rust and took the lead with just four minutes on the clock.

And it was all too easy for Ryan Loft to get free deep in Harrogate territory and race towards the byline before crossing from the right where Devarn Green had time to take a touch before finishing at the far post.

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Town striker Aaron Martin keeps his eye on the ball.

Town responded reasonably well to that early set-back and with the wind at their backs they began to ask a few questions of the home defence.

Connor Hall saw a header from George Thomson's free-kick deflected over the top, but on the whole the latter's set-piece delivery was disappointing during the early stages.

Loft then thought he had doubled the United advantage from close range, only to be denied by an offside flag, and just seconds later the Sulphurites went down the other end and won a penalty.

Chasing right-back Warren Burrell's ball down the line, Josh March went down under contact from George Taft just inside the Scunthorpe area to win his side a third spot-kick in the space of four matches.

And for the third time in four matches, March did the honours himself, confidently planting the ball high into the Iron net to level matters in the 27th minute.

Boosted by their goal, Town upped their game and found themselves firmly in the ascendancy with half-time approaching.

However, in the third minute of stoppage-time, all their good work was undone when some criminal defending allowed Loft to run on to Alfie Beestin's ball over the top and, out of nowhere, the Iron were back in front.

The hosts were second best during the first period, but started the second 45 on top, with Harrogate unable to make any real inroads as they sought a way back into the contest.

The momentum would slowly shift in the opposite direction, with the visitors beginning to pass the ball better and playing with more control.

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Mark Howard did well to deal with a couple of dangerous Thomson set-piece deliveries and also made a save to thwart Josh McPake, though he was hardly overworked between the sticks.

And, although Town kept probing away, United looked comfortable throughout, without ever having to even get out of second gear.

There was a sting in the tail, too, the home team scoring another goal out of absolutely nowhere when a corner was cleared to Lewis Spence, who rifled a stunning 35-yard strike into the top corner and ended the match as a contest.

Scunthorpe United: Howard; Clarke, Onariase (Bedeau 77), Taft, Brown; Gilliead, Karacan (Spence 77), Beestin, Green (Van Veen 59); Eisa, Loft (Hallam 84) . Unused substitutes: Watson, Rowe, O'Malley.

Harrogate Town: Belshaw; Burrell, Smith, Hall, Francis; Power (Muldoon 88), Thomson, Falkingham, McPake; Martin (Beck 70), March. Unused substitutes: Minter, Lawlor, Kiernan, Kerry.

Referee: J Busby (Oxfordshire).