Scunthorpe United 2, Sheffield United 2: Billy Sharp's penalty rescues a point for ten-man United

Blades v Scunthorpe
Blades v Scunthorpe
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A tight ground, two in-form teams and three League One points up for grabs.

This afternoon's match always promised to be an absorbing encounter and certainly did not disappoint as Scunthorpe and Sheffield United squared-up in a combative, controversial encounter at Glanford Park.

The visitors, who had earlier taken the lead through Chris Basham, appeared to be heading for defeat when their goalscorer was dismissed in between efforts from Josh Morris and Duane Holmes.

But tenacity runs straight through the core of this United team and so it was no surprise to see Billy Sharp, the former Scunthorpe centre-forward, drag them level with a late spot-kick.

Lower division football is supposedly all about strength of character. But, as the free-kick which broke the deadlock demonstrated, it can also be about guile. The finish, from Basham, was easy. But only because a delightfully clever interchange involving Mark Duffy and Jack O'Connell had completely bamboozled the hosts' defence.

Given that Graham Alexander's men had not previously conceded a league goal here since the opening day of the season, it was always going to take something special for United to score. And this first-half passage of play certainly was.

The visitors held their advantage until the opening exchanges of the second. And, predictably, it was Scunthorpe's leading goalscorer Josh Morris who dragged the hosts back into the game when he claimed his eighth of the season with a powerful drive to the near post.

The contest's pivotal moment came in the 68th minute when Basham was dismissed for a challenge on Neal Bishop. United's goalscorer protested his innocence but referee Darren Deadman's mind was made-up. In the absence of a successful appeal, the former Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool midfielder's suspension will rule him out of the forthcoming games against Bristol Rovers, Fleetwood Town and Walsall.

At least Sharp's equaliser will have improved the mood on the journey back to South Yorkshire. It was, on balance, certainly deserved. At his pre-match press conference on Thursday morning, Wilder had predicted United would have a near full strength squad at their disposal for the visit to north Lincolnshire.

A little over 48 hours, that proved not to be the case. Injuries to Jake Wright and James Wilson meant Basham was forced to deputise at centre-half while Leon Clarke also missed-out. Caolan Lavery, though, was deemed fit enough to take part despite being withdrawn from an under-23 fixture against Queens Park Rangers earlier in the week.

Scunthorpe, who had started the afternoon two points clear at the top of the table, tried to exploit any weaknesses caused by the reshuffle during a bright and determined start. But O'Connell and Ethan Ebanks-Landell both made important interceptions before United began to pose some questions of their own.

Fleck, making his first start of the month, delivered a seventh minute corner into Luke Daniels' six yard area which O'Connell, after overpowering his marker, headed just wide of the post. Kieron Freeman and Sharp, who effectively launched his career at this stadium after progressing through United's youth system, also beavered away down the flanks. The momentum, though, continued to ebb and flow.

After that spell of pressure, Holmes put Scunthorpe back on the front foot with a series of jinking runs. Neither they nor United, however, truly managed to punch a hole in the opposition's rearguard.

Until, that was, a superb piece of skill from Duffy sparked the match into life. The midfielder, who took the set-piece which moments later saw United take the lead, weaved past three markers before spotting Matt Done's dart towards the near post. David Mirfin, the Scunthorpe centre-half, made a crucial intervention before Kevin van Veen wasted a glorious opportunity at the other end of the pitch.

It proved costly when, 10 minutes before the interval, Basham applied the finishing touches to a clever and well-constructed training ground move.

Freeeman drove wide from the edge of the penalty area as Deadman prepared to blow for half-time. Scunthorpe, as you would expect, began the second period with real purpose. Morris, their leading goalscorer, levelled nine minutes after the restart from an acute angle and a period of pressure followed although Duffy scooped over at the opposite end of the pitch.

Deadman appeared set to allow play to continue when Basham and Bishop clashed in midfield. But, when the latter failed to climb immediately to his feet, the action was called back and a red card produced.

With nine minutes remaining, Holmes threaded the ball past Moore's outstretched palm and into the bottom forner of the net. But, as the home crowd began to celebrate victory, Sharp silenced them by converting from the spot after substitute Stefan Scougall had been fouled.

Scunthorpe United: Daniels, Wallace, Mirfin, Dawson (Madden 81), van Veen (Hopper 81), Morris, Bishop, Toffolo, Smallwood, Holmes, Clarke. Not used: Anyon, Wiseman, Adelakun, Mantom, Goode.

Sheffield United: Moore, Fleck, O'Connell, Basham, Sharp (Lavery 90), Done, Coutts, Freeman, Ebanks-Landell, Duffy(Scougall 76), Lafferty. Not used: Ramsdale, Hussey, Brown, Whiteman, Chapman.

Referee: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire).

Attendance: 6243.