The start of the 2004/05 season saw Scunthorpe looking to put their dangerous flirt with relegation the previous season behind them.
Having escaped the dreaded ‘R’ by the skin of their teeth, fans were anxious to see their team put in a better performance in the basement league
With only 3 new faces in the summer, the knives were already been sharpened for Brian Laws despite an excellent pre season
But the 3 signings proved to be the spine of the team that were desperately lacking the previous campaign. Musslewhite returned to the club and in in the shape of Andy Crosby, Scunthorpe gained a much needed boost in defence. Crosby, highly experienced and inspirational was quickly made skipper and his solid partnership with young highly rated Andy Butler was the main reason behind United’s flying start to the season. Defence was the key having shipped an alarming 72 goals the previous season. Scunthorpe also added some steel to an already promising midfield with the signing of experienced Ian Baraclough. Baraclough quickly formed an excellent understanding with Richard Kell and the pair bossed the midfield superbly.
Having lost free scoring Steve Maclean, the pressure was on to find somebody to fill his boots. Step forward Paul Hayes from the shadows. Hayes, signed on a free transfer from Norwich made an immediate impression at Glanford Park but thanks to the sensational form of Maclean, lost his place. With Maclean leaving for pastures new, Hayes did not miss his opportunity to become the Iron’s new goal saviour, and was soon scoring at an alarming rate in the first half of the season
Hayes receives his fans player of the month award for November
Scunthorpe’s impressive start to the season, which saw Laws rewarded with the Manager of The Month accolade, continued throughout the opening months, with just a smattering of defeats to prove they weren’t invincible A superb run of results saw United claim top spot from mid November to the end of December, going into the Christmas fixtures a staggering 7 points clear of nearest rivals Yeovil In the league the team were flying with a settled and solid back four, a tight but creative midfield and a front two firing on all cylinders. But it was not just Torpey and Hayes that contributed to the goals scored column on the table, goals were flying in from all areas most noticeably of all from impressive centre back, who went on to weigh in with 10 goals for his club in his first full season The Cups also provided United with some much needed financial incentive and despite early exits in the Carling Cup and LDV Vans Trophy, the FA Cup once again proved United’s golden carrot. Having swept aside League 1 boys Chesterfield in the First Round, a home draw with struggling Wrexham provided an eye catching prospect and was a game that brought the Sky cameras to Glanford Park and a helpful £50,000 to United’s coffers. In front of the national audience the boys excelled and recorded an impressive 2-0 victory. Nobody could then predict however the exciting reward that victory brought as fans, players, and manager alike waited anxiously for their team to be drawn in the 3rd round draw, Scunthorpe weren’t out yet and neither were some of the Premiership big boys, it was too much to dream, would this be the year that we got one of the big guns??
Lady luck was indeed smiling on the Iron with the draw pairing United with the plum tie everyone wanted. A trip to Premiership elect Chelsea. The draw brought national attention to Scunthorpe with the media playing on the prince v pauper idea. The minnows against the millionaires. The draw created real excitement and ticket frenzy in the town but it seemed that hangover of excitement extended to the pitch.
Scunthorpe went into the Christmas programme full of confidence, having beaten Rushden and Diamonds away to open up a 7 point lead at the top. That victory was to be the last on the road for many months as United suffered travel sickness and by the middle of the New Year their lead at the top had been well and truly extinguished
Frustrating draws against Chester and Nott's County were followed up by costly defeats against Darlington and Mansfield. The games also saw red cards for Iron duo Andy Butler and Steve Torpey, the latter of which cost him that dream game against Chelsea
And so onto the Chelsea game, United knew that if they went into the game fearing their opposition they would most likely end up on the end of a heavy and damaging defeat. Though the Chelsea team was far from Mourinho’s strongest, it still boasted a line up of world class players like England starlets Joe Cole and Glen Johnson, Carlos Cudicini, Mateja Kezman, Eidur Gudjohnson and a bench that contained Arjen Robben and the small matter of record signing Didier Drogba. The task facing United was little short of impossible. Or was it?
From the start it was clear Scunthorpe were not going to be overawed by their illustrious opponents and started the game purposefully. Few would have predicted Scunthorpe actually getting on the score sheet let alone opening the scoring. But Paul Hayes so impressive already in the league, put Scunthorpe’s travelling army of six thousand supporters into dreamland when he collected a pass from Matt Sparrow, before turning his defender exquisitely and firing in a shot he had no right to have through the legs of Cudicini. If Scunny’s fans were stunned then Chelsea’s 30,000 plus in Stamford Bridge were shocked to the core, not even the likes of Liverpool and Man United had managed to score at the Bridge. The scoreline no doubt caused many to smile even though Scunthorpe went on to lose the game as expected, it was not before giving Chelsea an almighty fright with Taylor and Butler going so close for Scunthorpe. Mourinho led the plaudits for plucky Scunthorpe, and a new friendship was forged
Andy Butler tussles with his world class opponents.
Immediately after the Stamford Bridge adventure was a somewhat more mundane occasion against Bury at home, and those fair weather fans and glory seekers were noticeable by their absence. The game itself turned out to be something of a thriller United eventually emerging 3-2 winners. But the alarm bells were already ringing, and January February and March, saw the Iron go through something of a sticky patch at just the wrong time. Hayes firepower in front of goal had dried up somewhat after his exploits at Chelsea. United lacked a cutting edge up front and were in danger of losing the top 3 place they had held since day 1. The signing of Andy Keogh who had previously enjoyed a successful loan spell earlier in the season was a timely boost upfront and the performances of Richard Hinds made up for the big loss of Andy Butler who suffered an ankle injury. February was a desperately harsh month for Scunthorpe with no fewer than 4 tough away trips. The double blow of losing twice in a week to their nearest promotion rivals Swansea and Yeovil was worsened by further defeat to Wycombe, though a point at fellow promotion chasers Southend proved useful. United’s excellent home record saw them through their sticky patch relatively unscathed still clinging to the top 3. Bizarrely the top 3 trio all suffered and it was Southend who were threatening to break the stranglehold grip of Yeovil Swansea and Scunthorpe. Scunthorpe celebrate Andy Butler’s goal against Yeovil
And so into the final third of the season, which saw Scunthorpe clinging to that elusive top 3 spot by their finger nails, Southend were snapping at their heels. A somewhat disastrous Easter period saw United rescue a home point against Oxford on Good Friday before suffering a damaging defeat in front of the Sky cameras at bitter local rivals Lincoln. It was a defeat that threatened to undo all the hard work of the season, setting up a ‘must win’ game against fellow promotion chasers Macclesfield.
In the game United failed to take their numerous chances with misfiring strikers Paul Hayes and Steve Torpey the guilty party. A 0-0 draw meant the Iron dropped outside the top 3 for the very first time this season and what a time it was to lose that position! Scunthorpe’s promotion dream that seemed like such a reality was beginning to fade
It was a test of character for Brian Laws boys unquestionably, the boo boys had predicted that Scunthorpe didn’t have the bottle to maintain their promotion challenge. It was time to stand up and be counted, they had 5 more games to make that dream a reality and prove their doubters wrong.
Hayes and Torpey rush to congratulate Ian Baraclough after his late goal snatches a crucial point against Oxford United
Scunthorpe couldn’t have asked for a tougher match to ‘bounce back’ into the position they so richly deserved, travel-sick United hadn't won on the road since the 3-1 success at Rushden before Christmas, so even the most optimistic Iron couldn’t really see them returning from in form and play off chasing Northampton Town. After just five minutes, United’s promotional credentials were under serious threat and scrutiny when Kirk lobbed Musslewhite to make it 1-0 and leave the United faithful fearing the worst. They needn’t have worried. Scunthorpe finally stepped up a gear and played more akin to the first half of the season when they tore teams apart. First Hayes wriggled free to poke home to make it 1-1 before some excellent play saw Richard Kell score what proved to be the winning goal. There first away triumph since Christmas and by far the most important. United had well and truly recaptured their form at exactly the right moment. The success at Northampton was followed up by a thumping home victory 4-0 against doomed to the conference Cambridge. The win was sweetened further by the welcome return of centre back Andy Butler. Scunthorpe were back in business. A win at local rivals Grimsby would see the Iron return to the top of the table. Although they didn’t quite manage that producing a somewhat dour 0-0 draw, the important thing was United’s destiny was firmly in their own hands, going into the final 2 games of the season. Sparrow scores against Cheltenham Taylor enjoys his strike in the 4-0 success against Cambridge Hayes is mobbed by delighted team mates at Northampton
Their final home game looked set to be something of a nail biter against Bristol Rovers. It was more than comfortable, an early brace by Steve Torpey was swiftly followed up by a lovely lob from Paul Hayes and a dipping header by Cleveland Taylor. The resounding 4-0 victory was not enough to secure promotion however but did mean a point from the final away game against Shrewsbury would be enough to ensure the Iron would be playing League 1 football next season. Incredibly going into the season’s final fixtures, any of the top 4 could still be crowned champions,let alone win promotion. It was a somewhat nail biting game against Shrewsbury that didn’t really live long in the memory. The scenes at the final whistle certainly did though. A 0-0 draw meant the Iron clinched promotion in 2nd place and the party started. The one noticeable absentee Richard Kell who had devastatingly broken his leg for the second time whilst with the Iron against Bristol Rovers the previous week, was not forgotten by players or fans and was in everybody’s thoughts having played a pivotal role in clinching promotion. Just 2,000 Scunthorpe fans were there to celebrate on the momentous day and an open top bus tour and civil ceremony were hastily arranged for Scunthorpe to come out and salute their heroes. Hayes, Sparrow and the rest of the team celebrate promotion at Shrewsbury Crosby and Butler aboard the open top bus
So the Iron would be playing their football in League 1 next season but the question on everybody’s lips would be who would be there on United’s new adventure?
The biggest question mark was over leading striker Paul Hayes who had previously rejected a new contract in January. Since his FA Cup glory moment, he had infuriated fans by seemingly giving up on playing for the club. He had earned the nickname ‘lazy hayesy’ in reference to lacklustre performances in the second half of the season. Transfer speculation had raged throughout the latter stages of the season, with an abundance of clubs said to be interested in signing Hayes including Yeovil, Brighton and Barnsley.
United though were not willing to lose their leading marksman who was still just 21. A new improved contract offer was put on the table but remained unsigned for many weeks whilst Hayes and his agent mulled over his options, neither rejecting nor accepting the terms offered.
After a tediously long waiting period which dragged many weeks, Hayes finally decided to join fellow League 1 side Barnsley. The move though slightly surprising was not unexpected. However the announcement that Barnsley had made a double Scunthorpe swoop, taking Hayes best pal Richard Kell with them left manager Laws and fans reeling from the shock.
What followed made sure that Hayes and Kell would not be receiving a rapturous reception when they returned to Glanford Park. Hayes, a former fans favourite, took a swipe at Scunthorpe, the club that had took a chance on him and effectively resurrected his career having arrived from Norwich. Although most Scunthorpe fans could understand Hayes leaving for a ‘bigger club’ and undoubtedly a bigger wage, it was the manner in which he left that left a bitter taste in the mouth, putting in a lack of effort once his chances of a big move were assured.
If Hayes move left a bitter taste than Richard Kell’s words sent shockwaves through the fans. It emerged that Kell’s move to Barnsley was secured the day before the Bristol Rovers game, 2 games before Scunthorpe even secured promotion. What followed in the game was a devastating injury that left manager close to tears on what he described as the worst day of his life, desperately sorry for the popular Kell. Kell however delivered a real kick in the teeth to the fans who had sung and chanted his name at Shrewsbury, and had sent numerous messages of support willing him back in an Iron shirt as soon as possible. The players all emerged at Shrewsbury with T Shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Do It For Kells’. He was in everybody’s thoughts but Kell had no intention of ever playing for Scunthorpe again, revealing that in the ambulance on the way to the hospital following his injury, his thoughts were not on the fans, the manager, promotion or even Scunthorpe but concerned that his dream move had fallen through. It was a bitter pill to swallow. Whether Kell does make a successful comeback from a broken leg for the second time remains to be seen, undoubtedly Barnsley have taken a big gamble signing a seriously injured player.
Aside from the Barnsley saga, there was plenty of other transfer speculation and activity going on at Glanford Park. Firm fans favourite Andy Butler was at the centre of most of the speculation, following his impressive performances. A rumoured 1 million bid by Man City was quickly rubbished by both camps and a £300,000 bid from Championship QPR was ‘politely’ turned down.
Butler started the new campaign with Scunthorpe, and fans breathed a huge sigh of relief when he signed a new improved deal to his current terms, tying him to United until 2007.
Evergreen Peter Beagrie, the centre of transfer speculation, the previous summer, quickly signed up for another year at the age of 39.
Loan star Richard Hinds was quickly snapped up on a permanent deal from Hull City and the highly rated young Irishman Richie Ryan who also joined on loan towards the end of the previous season from Sunderland was signed up, having being recommended to the Iron as an ideal signing by Black Cats boss Mick McCarthy. The young midfielder was tipped for a starring role this time around.
New singings came in the shape of another Irish man, tough tackling midfielder and former Stockport Captain Jim Goodwin, who would add steel to the midfield.
Signing a replacement for Paul Hayes remained a priority and there were numerous rumours flying around as big name strikers were readily available including experienced marksmen Michael Bridges, Tony Thorpe, Jamie Cureton, Luke Beckett and Chris Greenacre. In the end United plumped for Sheffield United and one time Celtic striker Tommy Johnson. The signing meant the Iron ‘boasted’ the oldest attack in the league with 35 year old Johnson, set to link up with Steve Torpey, somewhat thankfully for the Iron faithful, the partnership didn’t materialise.
Going in the opposite direction out of Glanford Park was Kevin Sharp and two players who came up through the successful United youth set up, but were little more than fringe players this year, Terry Barwick and Wayne Graves bid a tearful farewell.
Andy Parton was all set to follow them through the exit door, joining Stalybridge Celtic on a permanent deal after a successful loan spell. United however didn’t want to lose young Parton and somewhat sneakily demanded a £50,000 fee for the young player. Parton ended up in the starting line up for Scunthorpe at Brentford on the opening day.
Highly rated full back Nathan Stanton, another product of the youth team, spent much of the last season on the sidelines with a knee injury, however Scunthorpe were quick to give him a new contract and Scunthorpe fans sighed in relief.
The Iron are put through their pre season paces New signings Richard Hinds, Jim Goodwin and Ritchie Ryan try on an Iron shirt for size.
Scunthorpe shunned their usual glamorous pre season friendlies in favour of what Laws described as tough winnable games that would provide the league 1 new boys with a physical workout.
A tour to Ireland gave the Iron two games against lower Irish opposition and these matches were complimented by the usual local friendlies against Grimsby Town, Brigg and Winterton Rangers, the programme was completed by home matches against Cambridge and Northampton.
A somewhat uninspiring list there and was matched by the uninspiring performances against weaker opposition, scoring goals looked like it was going to be a problem. They never even got to play against Northampton, who pulled out due to lack of players.
Pre season as always brings injuries and United suffered serious injuries to Lee Ridley and new signing Jim Goodwin, which ruled them out of the opening months of the new campaign. Tommy Johnson was also ruled out of the opening trip to Brentford.
An uninspiring pre season, injuries already mounting, The Scunthorpe fans were once again questioning Laws, not enough signings, would they be good enough to at least survive in League 1?
The bookies were quickly writing off their chances, making them firm favourites for a quick return to the basement alongside fellow promoted sides Southend and Swansea. Yeovil despite conceding a staggering 62 goals were tipped to pick up where they left off.
The Scunthorpe players were confident though, with Laws and co setting their sights higher than just merely surviving, targeting a place in the play offs as their challenge. The fans though would be more than happy to just stay up following their short lived stay last time out in the old second division.
The squad was definitely more equipped this time around and league 1 it soon became clear in the opening games held no fear for a talented Iron side. However they were set to return from the opening day without anything to show for it.
The two Andys and Sparrow enjoy a joke in training Andy Number 3: Butler sports another new hairstyle
The fixture list was anything but kind throwing up a tough tough opening month beginning with a testing trip to Brentford who lost out in the League 1 play offs the previous campaign.
United gave a start to Andy Parton alongside Steve Torpey up front, leaving Andy Keogh to settle for a place on the bench.
Scunthorpe lined up with Musslewhite in goal, a back four of Marcus Williams, Andy Butler, Andy Crosby and Cliff Byrne. A midfield quartet of Matthew Sparrow, Ian Baraclough, Richard Hinds and Cleveland Taylor.
From the start it was clear they were not there just to make up the numbers, playing with a real passion and determination and restricting Brentford’s chances and creating small chances of their own in a tidy first half ending 0-0.
The second half saw Scunthorpe racing out of the blocks and a corner swung in perfectly by Baraclough was met by Crosby who headed the ball well past the goalkeeper before it was cleared from beyond the line. It was a goal, the Scunthorpe players knew it, the fans behind the goal knew it and the Brentford players certainly knew it. Amazingly the referee didn’t agree, a decision that typically and ultimately cost Scunthorpe. Several minutes later Brentford were ahead after their first shot of the game, an untimely slip by Butler let in pacy winger Jay Tabb. It was hard for Scunthorpe to take and moments later the game was over when Brentford were awarded a penalty for a handball. In truth Scunthorpe could count themselves lucky that they were not down to 10 men. Baraclough definitely handled
And so a defeat on the opening day but they were far from disgraced and could take many positives out of the game, there was an opportunity to bounce back quickly in the first home game. What the fans dubbed as a ‘grudge’ match, it was an early return to Glanford Park for Hayes with his new club Barnsley. He was expecting something of a hot reception, that’s exactly what he got.
Parton starts against Brentford, leaving Keogh to settle for the sub’s bench.
And so into the opening home fixture of the season and all eyes on the man in the flashy white boots. Yes, Paul Hayes was back and what a rapturous reception he received! Well maybe not in a good way.
The lure of League 1 football and a potential ‘grudge’ match proved an attractive prospect with a n impressive record breaking 7,000+ plus crowd cramming into Glanford Park for the midweek fixture. Traffic chaos ensued with a lack of parking available meaning some fans finally got their seats long after the kick off.
From the start the script was already written, booed in The Barnsley team line up, booed when he got the ball, booed at every opportunity, Hayes did not waste his chance to shut up the boo boys predictably slotting home after the home defence had been sliced open, his celebrations at The Doncaster Road End did him no favours.
And so Hayes was already threatening to steal the headlines but we were still in the first half and when Sparrow was brought down in the box, Crosby stepped up to continue his 100% perfect penalty record and bring Scunthorpe deservedly level.
The second half could quite easily have swung either way, with both sides going close, Scunthorpe forced to make not one but two goal line clearances. It was finely poised, who had he mettle and skill to force the winner. Well Scunthorpe did, turning to perennial ‘super sub’ and darling of the fans Cleveland Taylor to provide something more.
The excitement when he touched the ball was tangible, Scunthorpe fans knew exactly what the young Jamaican was capable of but couldn’t have dreamt what was to happen next.
The fans had been screaming for the ball to come Taylor on the right wing and he took it with aplomb at the half way line, his electrifying pace frankly terrified the Barnsley defence, and he skipped past them easily. The fans on the edge of the seat, he cut into the penalty area before unleashing an unstoppable effort that flew past Colgan and almost broke the net such was the ferocity of the shot.
There was only one shout from the Iron faithful ‘Hayesy what's the score’!” Still rang out well past the final whistle which was greeted with a great roar by fans and players alike
What a match!
Andy Butler is watched closely by ex team mate Paul Hayes Baraclough and Byrne celebrate Scunthorpe’s first win
And so to the second of United’s ‘double header’ of tough home fixtures, this time relegated Championship side Gillingham were the visitors, who also had an ex Iron in their ranks.
There was never any doubt that Chris Hope would be greeted anything other than rapturously however, The Gillingham defender something of a hero for the Iron in his seven seasons, a virtual ever present and defensive rock. His finest moment undoubtedly captaining the side that triumphed at Wembley in 1999, although some Iron fans were still maybe a little miffed that Hope left so soon after relegation, few bode hard feelings and Hope received a hero’s welcome at the club, he served so well
As for the game itself, well United were looking to continue their excellent performance against Barnsley but were thwarted in their efforts by a resolute Gillingham defence, well marshalled by Hope. After a first half stalemate United continued to plug away creating numerous openings but not quite managing to make the vital breakthrough. It was something of a shock when Gillingham pounced. Veteran Hessenthaler took advantage of a lapse in concentration by young full back Marcus Williams to unleash a 30 yard pile driver that beat Musslewhite.
United were staring defeat in the face, a defeat that they definitely didn’t deserve, they had enough chances to win the game outright but if you don’t take your chances at this level they will prove costly.
However thanks to numerous stoppages, Injury time was plentiful to grab a winner, 2 minutes earlier Gillingham star striker was sent off for his second book able offence and United had managed an equaliser. A corner swung in by Baraclough created panic in the Gillingham defence and wasn’t cleared, Richard Hinds crashed in a close range shot that they so richly deserved.
There was ample time now to even snatch a late winner although they couldn’t quite manage it, it was a well earned point from the fans point of view although players and manager both thought they had enough chances to win the game and were somewhat disappointed with a sole point considering it was a home game.
However four points from 9 was a tidy return and set the Iron up for the trip that everyone was waiting for, A trip to the City Ground to face former European Champions Nottingham Forest.
In Midweek United were given a huge boost with an exciting signing that went onto steal the limelight against Forest…
Richard Hinds is mobbed following his late, late equaliser against Gillingham.
Chased by Laws for over a year Scunthorpe finally got their man on the Tuesday before the big game when it had looked like the deal was dead in the water.
A then 18 year old Billy Sharp had actually being on trial with Scunthorpe during pre season the previous year. He scored a spectacular goal against Scottish giants Rangers, and United had seen more than enough to pursue their interest further.
Unfortunately a deal of any kind could not be agreed because of an untimely injury crisis at Sheffield United.
Laws, though never stopped tracking the young striker and watched with interest when a three month loan spell with Rushden and Diamonds produced 9 goals in 16 games.
A prolific striker at any level, Sharp was highly rated by the Blades but an abundance of quality strikers at Bramall Lane meant Sharp’s chances of first team action there were somewhat limited.
A season long loan was on the cards for Billy with League 2 side Bury looking likely to be offered Sharp’s services but Laws was not to be deterred and put in an offer for a permanent deal to the Blades
The deal was agreed with Neil Warnock insisting it was a good price for Billy. Blades fans though happy to see Sharp go on loan did not want him leaving altogether and were furious and upset when news that a permanent deal had been agreed with Scunthorpe.
The deal was far from signed sealed and delivered however, and Billy failed to reach personal terms with the Iron and it looked like the deal was over.
Laws insisted though that the deal was not off, Billy just merely was anxious to talk through his options with his father before accepting or rejecting the move.
A reassuring phone call from his father prompted Billy to decide that joining the Iron was for the best at this moment in time and although understandably disappointed to leave the club he had been with since a boy, Sharp vowed to fire in the goals for his new club given the chance.
His story was remarkably similar to United’s other 19 year old striker, Andy Keogh who also had left his Yorkshire boyhood club to join Scunthorpe. The pair got on like a house on fire, prompting jokes from their team mates about their closeness and Laws even claiming he wouldn’t be surprised to see the pair move in together
Most importantly though was their understanding of each other on the pitch, and following an ‘unfortunate’ injury to Iron first choice Steve Torpey the pair were thrown together more in hope than anything else. More of this later right now is time for the story of Billy’s dream debut.
Brian Laws welcomes new signing Billy Sharp to Glanford Park.
It was the fixture that all League 1 fans had been looking for since Forest’s fall from grace and shock relegation out of the top two tiers of English football. Scunthorpe fans were no different, the fixture bringing great excitement and anticipation.
However of course for manager Brian Laws, the City Ground and Forest hold a special place in his heart, having being one of Cloughie’s boys in the golden era. The City Ground is probably the one and only place Laws will ever go and get a rapturous applause from both sets of fans although incredibly there are still sections of the Scunthorpe support that want Laws out!
Laws treated like a returning son by the Forest faithful sprang a surprise by including full back Nathan Stanton in the starting line up without having played any reserve team football, it appeared to be a bit of gamble who initially looked to be missing match sharpness although improved remarkably and grew in stature as the game went on.
Cleveland Taylor, so often super sub was also given a starting berth, and worried the Forest defence all afternoon with his pace.
Of course for Scunthorpe fans it was their first glimpse of Sharp in an Iron shirt and although he had a somewhat stifled first half with chances and possession few and far between he certainly made a lasting impression in the second.
Suddenly it was clear to see just why Forest were struggling, undoubtedly they had the possession and quality players, notably the impressive Kris Commons, to steamroller Scunthorpe but for all their possession, they created little in the way of clear cut chances.
Scunthorpe knew if they were to take anything away from the match at all, then they must take any chance that came their way. When Torpey missed what could only be described as a sitter to the frustration of the 2000+ Iron following, it looked like this was not going to be their day. Until Sharp had a say that is.
In the 70 th minute Sharp collected a pass on the edge of the box, seemingly with nowhere to go, Sharp turned his man and got in a low shot into the bottom corner he had absolutely no right to have.
Celebrations amongst the Scunthorpe fans were wild, provoking scenes of jubilation similar to Chelsea in terms of euphoria elation and shock. As for Billy he went straight to the man who had showed him the faith in signing him running to Laws and saluting him in a kind of ‘That’s for you gaffer!’ gesture before being buried in a pile of his celebrating team mates in what has become a familiar celebration amongst the close tight knit band of Scunthorpe players
3 precious valuable points then that raised eyebrows up and down the league and was used to illuminate Forest’s demise, losing at home to little Scunthorpe.
Scunthorpe fans though did not care one iota about Forest’s demise and as well as savouring a famous victory it also showed them that this Scunthorpe team could more than cope with League 1 opposition and the evidence was in 4 sparkling performances and a highly impressive 7 points from 12. So impressive in fact that Scunthorpe had the opportunity to do something that fans never thought would be possible in League 1, another 3 points against Southend the following Friday would see Scunthorpe (relegation favourites remember?) top the table and become shock overnight leaders of League 1
Billy enjoys his debut goal against Nottingham Forest
But before they could set about making that pipe dream a reality, they had to contend the opening round of the carling cup, Cup success has always been pivotal to Scunthorpe so a cup win was in the fore thought of Brian Laws mind as he selected a strong near full strength line up which saw the return of Peter Beagrie and a welcome start for Irish youngster Richie Ryan.
The game itself proved to be an entertaining encounter and although Scunthorpe fans didn’t realise it at the time, proved to be a turning point in the Iron’s early season fortunes.
In a pulsating encounter, Sharp made an excellent home debut, showing those fans unfortunate enough to miss Forest, that he was no flash in the pan. He did everything but score coming desperately close in the closing stages with a curling effort that skimmed the cross bar.
It was another ‘new boy’ who grabbed the opener, Ryan making his first team debut, opened the scoring with a delightful strike that thumped in the top corner.
Tranmere though having just missed out on the play offs last season were no pushovers and unsurprisingly drew level, late in the game.
The Carling Cup no longer being two legged, meant their had to be a winner tonight and the game was seemingly set for extra time. United though had one eye on Friday’s clash with Southend and decided they didn’t want the extra hassle of extra time and possible penalties. In stoppage time they snatched a winner.
And would you believe it, it was ex Rovers star Richard Hinds that bagged the winner, scoring his second goal in as many home games. Hind's had always been Mr Versatility but goal scoring had never been his strongest point and yet here he was Scunthorpe’s early top scorer!
The result was a welcome one, with Scunthorpe anxious to continue their good form even though it was a Cup game but Scunthorpe's more long term fortunes were affected when target man Steve Torpey suffered a knee injury which was quickly found to be a long term one that was to keep him out for at least three months.
Centre back Andy Butler so crucial to United’s League 2 success, also suffered an injury in the game which again would send him for another lengthy stay in physio Nigel Adkins already busy treatment room.
A double crushing blow then or was it? On the surface, injury to their experienced striker and star defender so early into the campaign looked disastrous. In actual fact Iron fans would look back on this night and thank their lucky stars…
Billy, on his home debut, attacks the Tranmere defence Ryan celebrates his strike with the Scunthorpe fans
And so to the impossible dream, could Scunthorpe really record their highest position in over 40 years? The task had become even more strained with the injuries sustained in the midweek fixture but Scunthorpe were made of stern stuff, knowing they possessed the quality to triumph against their fellow newly promoted rivals Southend.
But with Torpey ruled out indefinitely and Tommy Johnson still a long way from fitness, United had something of a striker crisis and turned to the forgotten man Andy Keogh to partner fellow youngster Billy Sharp, in turn creating the league’s youngest front two both just 19.
The move was in more hope than expectation but it was clear from the start the pair who had hit it off so well off the pitch, were just as effective on it, thrilling the Iron fans with some excellent play as they read each other’s games so superbly well.
Both teams had gone up last year with a strong defence at the heart of the success and it was the defences that were on top in this game with Southend’s strong backline marshalled by the excellent Adam Barrett, thwarting the best efforts of Sharp and Keogh.
There was however nothing they could do about what proved to be the winning goal from Scunthorpe, a thumping effort from midfielder Ian Baraclough was enough to see Scunthorpe claim those precious three points that saw them hit top spot.
Scunthorpe fans savoured the moment, expecting the teams excellent start to be short lived, they were only to be overnight leaders of League 1, displaced the very next day but it wasn’t to be the only time they were top.
And so it was Baraclough who snatched the unlikely goal scoring headlines but he was soon eclipsed by the most exciting partnership Scunthorpe fans had ever seen. Billy Sharp and Andy Keogh take your bow.
Players rush to celebrate Ian Baraclough’s match winner that sent the Iron overnight leaders of League 1.
The Southend game had shown Iron fans, glimpses of Sharp and Keogh’s potential but they could never have predicted the shattering impact they would have on Scunthorpe and League 1.
The games were coming thick and fast with a Bank Holiday trip to Hartlepool next on the Iron agenda, they weren’t getting an easier either yet another strong team, the losing play off finalists.
Scunthorpe though were on fire or rather a certain pair of youngsters were, they didn’t have it all their own way though Hartlepool snatched an early lead before man of the moment Sharp bundled in a quick fire reply.
The second half though belonged to the teenagers who combined wonderfully for Sharp to fire Scunthorpe ahead before following up with a third as Sharp repaid the favour and set up Keogh for his first goal of the season, a delightful shot that arrowed in the top corner from outside the box.
The floodgates looked set to open, with Sharp and Keogh tearing open the Hartlepool defence at will, Sharp was hungry for his Iron hat trick and came agonisingly close, midfielder Ryan could also have added a fourth killer goal but unfortunately it never came.
Scunthorpe showed early signs of their soon to be achilles heel of a wobbly defence when they conceded two goals in the closing stages, the equaliser a penalty was the last kick of the game.
Hartlepool had amazingly come back to steal a 3-3 draw in a game where they had been virtually played off the pitch in the second half. Scunthorpe fans shell shocked and disappointed to draw a game that would have seen them joint top with next opponents Huddersfield, only had one topic of conversation on the journey home- the sparkling performance of the teenage terrors.
The quick follow up Friday game at manager of the month’s Peter Jackson’s Huddersfield proved another opportunity for Sharp and Keogh to shine. They duly took that chance.
And so, going into the game against table toppers Huddersfield, having lost that two goal away cushion at Hartlepool, United were still far from lacking in confidence.
A large travelling contingent made the short journey across the Pennines for the second successive Friday night fixture and what a game it proved to be!
After just five minutes, Sharp was sent racing clear into the Huddersfield box, only to be brought down by the last ditch attempt by Rachubka’s gloves to save his side. There could only be one decision and the referee duly pointed to the penalty spot. Peter Beagrie took the spot kick sending Rachubka the wrong way. He celebrated with his trademark back flip before celebrating with United’s young guns Andy Keogh, Ritchie Ryan and the man who won the penalty, Sharp.
Huddersfield fans were not used to seeing their side behind at home, and were flabbergasted when United continued to control the game.
They were rubbing their eyes in disbelief just one minute before half time when the Iron made it 2-0. An awful mistake by young defender Clarke, gifted Keogh an opportunity whose pace took him from the half way line to the edge of the box, Sharp had made a delightful run in support but Keogh didn’t need him, slotting the ball past Rachubka.
United’s army of travelling fans were shocked but delighted with their team’s performance, the only question was could they continue this into the second half. Unsurprisingly Huddersfield came out all guns blazing and really should have pulled one back when ex Lincoln man Gary Taylor Fletcher ballooned over with the goal at his mercy. It wasn’t long before they did score though. A trip from Ryan on the very edge of the box, resulted in a converted spot kick by Abbott.
Iron fans feared the worst having squandered a two goal lead just four days previously, chucking games away had always been an unfortunate skill but this new side mixed with experienced heads and hungry young players were made of stronger stuff. They simply went and took charge of the game, Cleveland Taylor back in the starting line up, unleashed a wicked curling thunderbolt that gave Rachubka no chance but crashed off the crossbar back into play. Whilst defenders gawked, Sparrow was the quickest to react, powering the header into the top corner. 3-1.
Scunthorpe were anxious not to make the same mistake again as they did at Hartlepool and sought the goal that would finish Huddersfield off for good. Ten minutes from the end they got it. A brilliant run from Sharp from his own half ended with a superb cross for his blond haired partner. Keogh’s header was too hot to handle for the goal keeper who got both hands on the ball but could only help it over the line. There could be no doubt that it was Keogh’s goal however and most importantly 4-1 away from home at the table topping Terriers, in fact it was Uniteds to sing as the result propelled the Iron to top spot yet again. The stunned Huddersfield fans were filing away in their droves well before the final whistle, knowing they had been soundly beaten by a resilient Scunthorpe. Many will still say the team that played the best has been Scunthorpe.
Despite pressing for further goals, with Sharp desperate to get on the score sheet, the score line remained an emphatic Huddersfield 1-4 Scunthorpe, providing a much happier visit for Scunny fans than the previous time they were there when they were leading 2-1 going into the final 5 minutes only to come away with a 3-2 defeat. Scunthorpe have improved rapidly since then.
Huddersfield Demolition Richie Ryan on the attack Beagrie celebrates with Scunthorpe’s young guns Keogh is mobbed by delighted team mates after bagging the Iron’s fourth. Sparrow celebrates his strike with the rest of the team. Job well done: The teen terrors salute each other’s work
The Iron were now in confident mood and next up was a home fixture against Port Vale. Vale were no match for a resilient Iron who bossed the game comfortably to record a 2-0 victory.
Goals came from the rejuvenated Keogh, who was like a whole new player with his young partner bringing the best out of him.
But with all things considered it was only luck that brought the super pair together, remember Keogh wasn’t even in the starting line up at Brentford and fans questioned whether he should be loaned, thankfully for the Iron and although not so much for Torpey, Keogh got his chance and has never looked back, never out of the team apart from international commitments.
The other goal in the game came from that goal machine yes Richard Hinds who had now bagged three goals in total having only scored once in his whole time with Hull City.
Next up was a tricky away trip to neighbours and bottom of the table Doncaster Rovers without a win all season, these games always a banana skin for Scunthorpe in past seasons, proved so once again, but nobody could have predicted it would trigger an alarming losing streak that pushed Scunthorpe into danger at the wrong half of the table…
Goal scorers Andy Keogh and Richard Hinds celebrate another win.
Doncaster has never really proved to be much of a happy hunting ground for Scunthorpe and so it proved again as United’s unbeaten streak and Doncaster’s losing one came to such a contrasting end.
Before the game Scunthorpe fans feared the worst, and they were proven right when a sluggish Iron conceded 2 goals in quick succession to leave them 2-0 down at half time with it all to do.
This was the same team that tore apart Huddersfield so just what had gone wrong, service to Sharp and Keogh was poor, Richie Ryan was substituted and replaced by Matt Sparrow and to their credit United came out for the second half, looking much more like their old selves.
The dangerous Sharp had one chance and took it, pouncing on defensive hesitation to reduce the deficit, accompanied by a rather bizarre celebration.
But Scunthorpe never looked like engineering a comeback and it was Doncaster who snatched the third decisive goal, shortly after Sharp’s goal to deflate United’s spirits and condemn Scunthorpe to their first defeat since opening day.
Scunthorpe fans who were hoping it was just an off day against their neighbours were sadly mistaken when one defeat turned into a five game losing streak as United lost their composure in alarming fashion.
Defeat against Doncaster was followed up by a far from disgraced 2-0 home defeat against Premiership Birmingham, the following game against Walsall gave United a chance to ‘bounce back’. From the start, it all went wrong when Walsall’s Fryatt converted an early penalty and United’s cause was not helped when Richie Ryan was shown a straight red for an ill advised tackle late in the first half.
Scunthorpe though at this stage were far from beaten and when Sharp grabbed the equaliser, Scunthorpe fans expected them to go on and win the game. The strain of playing with ten men for so long though took its toll when Musslewhite was beaten by two long range speculative efforts from the same man in quick succession and United were left staring at back to back league defeats.
Sharp celebrates what prove to be consolation goals against Doncaster and Walsall. Ryan in action against Walsall. His last start for almost three months.
Two games against lower placed opposition including new bottom side MK Dons were the next task awaiting Scunthorpe, two defeats were unthinkable but that’s exactly what they got.
A very lacklustre away performance at the Dons saw Scunthorpe deservedly return home empty handed if that wasn’t alarming enough, the performance against Yeovil was a real cause for defensive concern.
When Scunthorpe raced into an early two goal lead with a goal apiece from on fire teenagers Sharp and Keogh, it looked like it was going to be a comfortable afternoon for the Iron, with some in the stands even predicting a glut of goals against the struggling League 2 Champions. How wrong they were. An early tactical substitution by the new Glovers boss proved a masterstroke as first danger man Phil Jevons whipped in a stunning goal before sub Matt Harrold crashed in the equaliser just before half time. 2-2 at half time stunned the fans and it only got worse when Yeovil went ahead for the first time with an unfortunate Andy Butler own goal, only for Sharp to equalise with his second of the game. A pulsating encounter went Yeovil’s way when Harrold grabbed a fourth. Scunthorpe though stunned were far from defeated and twice thought they had snatched an amazing 4-4 equaliser.
First of all, Scunthorpe’s celebrations were cut short when a linesman ruled that Keogh’s goal was offside and then in injury time, substitute Wayne Corden’s brilliant curling shot bounced agonisingly against the crossbar.
A thrilling game had gone Yeovil's way but nobody could disguise United’s defensive frailties that had shipped 11 goals in four games and resulted in a four game losing streak.
Billy Sharp can’t force a goal against MK Dons The team celebrate going into a 2-0 lead against Yeovil with a salute, sadly it wasn’t enough to earn victory. Keogh on the attack against the Dons. Keogh puts the Iron ahead .
Another Friday, another away trip for Scunthorpe United, desperately hoping to get back to winning ways. They were boosted before the game by a new addition. Birmingham City winger Peter Till, who impressed during a brief substitute appearance in the Cup game joined on loan and went straight into the starting line up.
Skipper Andy Crosby, had picked up a knock in the Yeovil game and the captain’s armband was surprisingly passed to young defender Andy Butler, perhaps as a confidence booster as he was yet to recapture last season’s sparkling form.
Anyone taking their seats late at Prenton Park would have missed the spectacular goal, scored by Andy Keogh with just 28 seconds on the clock. Keogh, unleashed a lovely curling effort from the edge of the box, that was destined for the top corner as soon as it left his boot. What a fantastic moment for Keogh and an important start for Scunthorpe, who carried on as they meant to go on.
It was 2-0 before the break when Sharp pounced from a corner to continue his amazing scoring record and put Scunthorpe firmly in control.
Tranmere had no reply for a Scunthorpe defence, well marshalled by Butler and United pressed to further their advantage. Some excellent wing play by new signing Till resulted in Keogh swooping in close range, only to be denied by a late flag.
The game finished 2-0, an excellent result for Scunthorpe that halted their slide although they had barely dropped any places during their slump, it was important to get back to winning ways as quickly as possible.
The team are quick to congratulate Sharp. New signing Peter Till Butler displays the captain’s armband. Andy Keogh is not amused by the late offside decision. For the second successive week, he is denied a goal by the linesman’s flag.
Victory against Tranmere had given the Iron a much needed confidence boost that they took into their next game at home against Rotherham. In front of a big crowd, Scunthorpe had the worst possible start when Andy Butler, under pressure from a free kick, headed past his own keeper. The game was something of a nightmare for young Butler who endured a torrid first half before being substituted at half time.
The Iron were not behind long though when Billy Sharp unleashed a smart shot from the edge of box that brought Scunthorpe level.
More awful defending led to Rotherham taking the lead once more with a quick fire reply. Scunthorpe went in at the break 2-1 down and with it all to do in the second half.
Rotherham’s Paul McClaren helped their cause when he rather petulantly kicked out at Peter Beagrie right in front of the dugout. There was no other option but to red card him and ultimately helped Scunthorpe back into the game.
Peter Beagrie shimmied and danced his way down the line as if Rotherham players were non existent before whipping in an exquisite cross to Billy Sharp, who promptly said thank you very much, arrowing a well driven shot into the bottom corner.
Scunthorpe firmly had the advantage now in every sense and pushed forward in search of a winner that sadly eluded them by a stubborn Rotherham defence who held on for a point.
Not so captain fantastic, Butler had a bad afternoon. The team celebrate Sharp’s first equaliser Billy Sharp unleashes his first goal of the afternoon. Sharp is congratulated after scoring his team’s second equaliser against Rotherham.
A trip to Swindon next and would it be third time lucky for the Iron? For the third time this season they were playing a bottom club, the previous two occasions had ended in defeat.
United started the game purposefully and played much better than against MK Dons and Doncaster, showing their quality against a very poor Swindon outfit.
For all their possession though, Scunthorpe struggled to make the breakthrough, Sharp and Keogh going close. Their endeavour was finally rewarded when Matt Sparrow scored a great goal, just before half time.
United’s failure to close the game cost them dear when Swindon who had barely threatened all game, snatched an unlikely equaliser. Two points undoubtedly dropped rather than a point gained but at least they hadn’t made it an unwanted hat trick of defeats against the bottom club.
Scunthorpe celebrate Sparrow’s opener. Blink and you’ll miss it: A rare substitute appearance by Richie Ryan
4 goals to the Iron in this game was very flattering against a very good Oldham side, who in truth dominated the first half, they went ahead very early in the game from a free kick that deceived Musslewhite at his near post.
But some excellent play resulted in a scrambled goal for Andy Butler who prodded the ball over the line somehow despite lying on his back!
Scunthorpe snatched the lead for the first time when Peter Beagrie whipped in a dangerous cross , turned into Keogh’s path by Marcus Williams, Keogh either took a wild stab at it or brilliantly laid it on for Sharp who rifled in an unstoppable acrobatic volley.
United, though had obviously not learnt their lesson as Oldham equalised from another free kick with Liddell ghosting in unchallenged to poke the ball home.
But if the first half belonged to Oldham, the second half undoubtedly belonged to Scunthorpe, who reclaimed the lead when Beagrie’s corner caused panic in the Oldham defence. They cleared the ball only as far as Andy Crosby who thundered in a low shot that beat the keeper. 3-2 and Scunthorpe in control.
Their fourth came when Taylor burst through the Oldham defences to put in a perfectly weighted cross for Sharp to stab home his second of the game.
Only Sharp will be able to tell you how he didn’t get his first hat trick in Iron colours when he was set up perfectly only to somehow shoot wide with the goal gaping. His reaction said it all.
Butler scores whilst on the floor. Sharp celebrates his second and the Iron’s fourth. Sharp, Keogh and Crosby celebrate Butler’s equalising goal. I don’t believe it! Sharp misses a sitter and his chance of a hat trick
Scunthorpe were looking to build on last weeks excellent second half performance against Oldham with a winning start to their FA Cup campaign. Success in the cup was practically an expectation amongst Iron fans having reached the 3 rd round of the FA Cup, a staggering 8 out of 9 times. Victory against Bury was a requirement.
On a cold rainy day in Lancashire, a small travelling band of Scunthorpe fans saw them take an early lead against the run of the play. Bury were making all the early run ins but it was Scunthorpe who took their chance when Keogh applied the deftest of touches to get his head on a cross to send the ball past the keeper. 1-0.
Scunthorpe were still far from in control and Bury continued to dominate play but couldn’t take their chances , it was still something of a surprise when Scunthorpe managed to go in 2-0 up at the break.
Ian Baraclough thumped in a scorcher of a strike from the edge of the area that almost broke the back of the net on its way through to the top corner.
The mark of a good team is one that can tease out results even when their not at their best, all they had to do was keep it tight in the second half and they would be cruising through to round two but this is Scunthorpe, the world champions at snatching draws or defeats from the jaws of victory.
It wasn’t a surprise for Scunthorpe fans then when they did get a goal back but they were more than aggrieved by the manner in which it was conceded. To the amazement of both sets of fans, players and management , the referee pointed to the spot after Marcus Williams was adjusted to have shirt pulled in the box, having seen players in the past go unpunished for almost undressing opposition it was very harsh on Marcus who barely had a tug.
The penalty was duly dispatched and The Iron’s nerves were jangling, an equaliser was almost inevitable given the way Scunthorpe had so readily surrendered the intiative. The miserable day was completed when United were again on the end of some ‘ref justice’ when a minor tussle at the Scunthorpe corner flag saw Butler win a debatable decision. The Bury striker obviously not agreeing that he had fouled Butler, took his own form of retribution slamming his elbow into Butler’s forehead, an incident that fortunately for him, the ref didn’t see.
Predicatbly Bury grabbed the equaliser with Scunthorpe staring an unwanted replay in the face, however Keogh almost snatched a late, late equaliser with the last gasp kick of the game, his curling effort brilliantly tipped away by the keeper, without even time for the corner. A Glanford Park rematch it was to be then.
Billy Sharp congratulates partner Andy Keogh after opening the scoring. The team celebrate Baraclough’s super strike.
For the second successive week Scunthorpe fans found themselves making the away journey into deepest darkest Lancashire to Blackpool and a date with the Sky television cameras. A chance then for Sharp and Keogh to really put themselves in the shop window then and show the watching football nation exactly what they could do.
And in the opening period of the late Sunday afternoon game, they looked like doing exactly that with Keogh setting up Sharp to slot past the keeper with barely ten minutes gone.
But Scunthorpe had already been dealt a blow with the struggling Seasiders having just parted company with manager Hendry in the days before the game, looking to impress new boss Grayson.
Blackpool quickly equalised and then were looking to take control of the game once Scunthorpe were dealt the hammer blow of losing captain and defensive rock Crosby, just two minutes later to a straight red card.
To their credit Scunthorpe battled on and snatched the lead back when a push by Blackpool’s goalkeeper on Sharp at a corner was spotted by the ref and resulted in a penalty. Sharp took it himself and confidently smashed the ball home to get his second of the match.
The strain of playing with ten men for so long though was a challenge too far for Scunthorpe and when they conceded two goals in quick succession before half time , the game was over, with the final scoreline of 5-2 slightly flattering Blackpool somewhat.
It was important to get such a heavy defeat out of their system as soon as possible, they had that all important Bury replay to think about.
Scunthorpe were probably sick of the sight of Lancashire opponents but their inability to hold onto the lead two weeks previously meant that they had to play Bury again just 48 hours after their crushing defeat.
Chances in the game were few and far between in a mostly dour encounter that looked destined for the dreaded penalty shootout until veteran Tommy Johnson snatched a welcome injury time winner, his first goal for the club and potentially very important.
Andy Keogh makes a nuisance of himself as Scunthorpe take a corner. Andy Butler reflects on a missed opportunity.
For the third time this season, United found themselves facing Tranmere looking to make it a hat trick of wins against Rovers.
After an even first half with few opportunities, Scunthorpe started the second half well with Billy Sharp continuing his amazing scoring record, netting from the penalty spot for the second successive league game.
But Scunthorpe went on to concede a penalty of their own for Tranmere to equalise before ultimately losing when Delroy Facey slotted home to give Tranmere the lead and this time Scunthorpe were unable to reply.
Their misery was compounded when Richard Hinds was shown a straight red card in the dying moments against his former club for a wild tackle.
Scunthorpe’s normally so perfect home form was beginning to cost them, their league form was indifferent to say the least and back to back home league defeats were not what the doctor ordered but what they sadly received…
Billy Sharp salutes his goal, the only bit of cheer from the match.