Full-time: Scunthorpe United 1 Stevenage 0
MARK Duffy’s fifth goal of the season capped a fine second-half performance from Scunthorpe United – and earned them a fourth victory in five games at Glanford Park.
The winger fired the ball home from the edge of the box midway through a second period which the Iron dominated and they deserved more to show for their efforts than the final scoreline suggests.
Scunthorpe, on the back of successive defeats, had struggled for ideas and an attacking presence during a dour first-half against a Boro side that had lost four games on the trot.
But after they the break they looked much more of a threat and just when it began to look like they might not get a reward for their effort and endeavour, Duffy showed great precision to slot a shot home.
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With their visitors renowned for their size and strength, manager Brian Laws decided the best to get a result against Stevenage was to try to get at them with the ball on the floor.
That tactic was reflected in the Iron’s team selection, with Andy Barcham promoted to the starting line-up as Akpo Sodje continued to struggle with an ankle injury, and Mark Duffy moved up front to play off Karl Hawley.
Both teams were tentative during the opening quarter – not a surprise given their form going into the game.
Soon though the Iron, who gave a much better account of themselves than during Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Hartlepool United, began to get into their stride.
Josh Walker strode forward to fire in a shot from range that Boro keeper Chris Day held with ease, before Jimmy Ryan then whipped in a more testing effort with the outside of his boot.
In terms of possession, Scunthorpe were superior, patiently moving the ball from one side to the other in a bid to try to find an opening.
Michael Collins, again skippering the hosts as Paul Reid sat out a second successive game through illness, was their play-maker, producing a series of darting runs into visiting territory, while also trying to get the ball wide when the chance presented itself.
In the 13th minute, Hawley’s persistence paid off when he brilliantly brought under control a centre from Tom Newey and turned to shoot goalwards, only a stray Stevenage boot diverted it over the bar.
Just as quickly though as the Iron looked to have seized the initiative, they lost their way against a solid three-man defence.
Ryan and Newey continued to provide some excellent balls into the box. The problem was that United didn’t have the necessary presence to attack them.
It meant the first half, in front of the lowest league crowd of the season at Glanford Park, ended in stalemate – with little suggestion that the second 45 minutes would be any different.
With much more of a zip, though, about their passing, Scunthorpe upped the tempo and their pressure and what followed was one way traffic.
An offside flag frustrated Hawley in the 54th minute after he had emphatically rolled his marker and guided a low shot inside the far post following Duffy’s slide-rule pass.
Then, when the Iron wanted a flag, as Barcham’s header goalwards looked to be blocked by the hand of full-back David Gray, one never came.
The Iron continued to press, with a wild effort on the break from Lukas Akins, that almost hit the corner flag, the only real time Stevenage got out of their own half.
Just after the hour mark a teasing ball into the box was flicked goalwards by the head of Newey, but with Day beaten, it bounced against the bar.
Just when it looked like it might be one of those nights for United, they finally broke the deadlock in the 66th minute with a strike of great quality.
Having preferred to supply others rather than have a go himself, Duffy picked up possession on the corner of the penalty area and this time decided to unleash a fine angled drive that flew across a crowded box and nestled neatly into the far side of the net.
Rather than sit back and snuff out Stevenage, the Iron tried to put their visitors to the sword.
They continued to attack, with Ryan twisting and turning to set up a couple of half chances, but a glancing header from substitute James Alabi, which landed comfortably in the gloves of Day, was the closest they came to a second goal.
Fortunately it didn’t matter as on a night when the three sides directly below them in the table all picked up three points, United did the same.
SCUNTHORPE: Slocombe, Nolan, Mirfin, Canavan, Newey, Ryan, Collins, Walker (Alabi 63), Barcham, Duffy, Hawley. Subs: Severn, Ribeiro, Grella, Jennings, Wootton, Adelakun.
STEVENAGE: Day, Gray, Roberts, Chorley, Charles, Akins (Tansey 78), Mahon, Dunne, Freeman, Beleck (Haber 59), Shroot (Hoskins 63). Subs not used: Arnold, Grant, Iro, Comminges.
ATTENDANCE: 2,382 (44 away).