SHEFFIELD United’s fixture, at first glance, appeared a mismatch.
But, as regular watchers of United and Scunthorpe will tell you, nothing when these teams meet is ever quite as it seems.
Late goals, red cards and controversy have peppered recent encounters between League One rivals who, despite enjoying cordial relations off the pitch, bring both the best and worst out of each other whenever their paths cross on it.
And, true to form, although Danny Wilson’s side recorded the result which kept them on top of the table it came at a price with Shaun Miller, whose goal set United on the path to success, joining defender Neill Collins in the treatment room ahead of Saturday’s game against Hartlepool.
Mark Duffy, who counts the hosts among his list of admirers ahead of next month’s transfer window, presented Scunthorpe’s greatest threat.
But when Dave Kitson pounced early in the second-half, there was simply no way back for opponents who seem destined to endure a difficult New Year.
His header, which powered beyond Steve Mildenhall and into the back of Scunthorpe’s net, confirmed exactly why Wilson was so delighted to secure the former Reading marksman’s services until at least the end of the season.
Nick Blackman twisted the knife still further with a late penalty following a champagne exchange between Ryan Flynn and Blackman which reflected United’s dominance more than the scoreline ever could.
Wilson’s joy, though, was tinged with concern about the condition of two influential figures in his battle to bring Championship football back to Bramall Lane. Collins could be set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
“He left the stadium and went straight to hospital. They’ll have a look and we’ll know much more then.
“Neill is a warrior though so, when he goes down and stays down for a while, you know it’s something serious,” said Wilson.
Twenty two places and three points separated United and the visitors ahead of kick-off.
Nevertheless Scunthorpe, now managed by Brian Laws, will have made the short journey west harbouring high hopes of securing only their fourth victory since the former Sheffield Wednesday chief’s return to Glanford Park.
With all of his wins so far coming away from home, Laws has clearly enjoyed some success curing them of the travel sickness which contributed to predecessor Alan Knill losing his job.
Miller claimed his eighth goal of the campaign after barely four minutes.
Seizing upon Niall Canavan’s mistake and benefiting from Flynn’s intelligent decoy run, the United centre-forward exploited the space which opened up in front of him by driving towards the edge of the penalty box before threading a fierce low drive between Mildenhall’s outstretched palm and the far post.
Kitson ensured United regained their poise just before the hour when, having drawn a free-kick from Canavan, he converted Tony McMahon’s delivery in some style.
Blackman attempted to get in on the act with a speculative long distance effort before receiving his reward with only five minutes remaining.
McDonald and Flynn teased Scunthorpe’s rearguard this way and that before Tom Newey’s petulant challenge left referee Gary Sutton with no option but to point to the spot.