SPARROW GETS IRON FLYING HIGH
TWO goals inside 11 first-half minutes secured an opening day win for Scunthorpe United – and spoiled Mansfield Town’s return to the Football League.
Matt Sparrow’s stylish finish set the Iron on their way before a debut goal from Sam Winnall wrapped up a largely trouble free afternoon for the hosts, whose only setback was a late red card for Eddie Nolan when he handled a cross in the box.
Typical of the way the afternoon panned out for the Stags, substitute Louis Briscoe blasted the resulting spot kick over the bar.
“We’ve got to grow up quickly and punish sides when we get chances,” groaned Mansfield manager Paul Cox.
“We had the best three chances of the game including the penalty and we didn’t take any of them.When you go a goal down, you have to stay in the game.
“We’ve come away to a side that got relegated last year – and I don’t think there was a massive margin between us, certainly for the first 30 minutes, which I thought we bossed.
“I’m not going to panic, but when you look at the level of teams we’ll come up against, we need to adjust one or two things. It’s an awfully long season and this result won’t be fundamental to what happens.”
Clearly a side with confidence, the Stags imposed themselves on the game early on and could have been ahead inside 120 seconds when Lee Stevenson snatched at a shot in the box.
After that, Scunthorpe began to deal with Mansfield’s aerial threat and Sparrow’s clinical strike at the far post just before the half-hour mark settled them down.
Five minutes before half-time, United struck again, courtesy of former Wolves striker Winnall’s persistence. He went in to a 50-50 challenge with Stags goalkeeper Alan Marriott 25 yards out and got up the quicker of the two to roll the ball into an empty net.
The second half was a much quieter affair until Nolan, booked earlier on for dissent, blocked Sam Clucas’ cross with his hand in stoppage time. Briscoe’s woeful penalty though at least preserved United’s clean sheet.
“There was a huge pressure on us because we were relegated last season,” said jubilant Iron boss Brian Laws.
“We knew we were going to be given a tough ride and Mansfield’s enthusiasm in the first 20 minutes showed what they are capable of.
“But we knew if we defended our box well, we’d win the game. Once we got our noses in front, we never looked back.
“We controlled large portions of the game and our midfield dominated. You go through all pre-season with optimism, but until you get your first league game, when it really matters, that’s when you find out if you’ve had a good pre-season. After
this, I would say yes.”
BIRD OF PREY: Scunthorpe celebrate after Matthew Sparrow puts them ahead
BLOW: Louis Briscoe misses from the spot