Scunthorpe 1 Argyle 4
Scunthorpe United 1
Ladapo 14, Canavan 45, J Grant 57, Sarcevic 90
ARGYLE claimed a memorable victory at Glanford Park, winning in comfort and style to triumph for only the second time in Scunthorpe in the club’s history.
Freddie Ladapo opened the scoring with his fifth goal of the week of his life after a period of early dominance from the Pilgrims, and the lead was doubled in first-half injury-time by Scunthorpe youth-team product Niall Canavan.
Scunthorpe briefly gave Argyle pause for thought when half-time substitute Lee Novak scored within four minutes of his introduction, but the Pilgrims soon extended the lead again through Joel Grant.
Some fine saves from goalkeeper Matt Macey preserved the margin before an injury-time fourth from Antoni Sarcevic allowed Argyle to claim their first away league win since February with some panache.
Manager Derek Adams had opted for precisely the same starting 11 that had begun the previous Tuesday's impressive 3-1 home win over Gillingham.
That meant that Conor Grant continued at left-back, starting in the position for only the second time in his career, while Yann Songo'o and Canavan remained the centre-back partnership.
Another old Iron, Jamie Ness, was included in a three-man midfield which had performed so well against the Gills, alongside captain David Fox – happily recovered from a foot injury – and Antoni Sarcevic.
The division's most in-form forward led a front three in which Graham Carey was fit to play after a stomach problem that saw him substituted in midweek, and in which Joel Grant was again preferred to Ruben Lameiras.
Scunthorpe recalled three players to a starting 11 that lost 1-0 at Blackpool in midweek, with James Horsfield, George Thomas and Ike Ugbo replacing Funso Ojo, Andy Dales and Cameron Burgess.
Any fears that Argyle might not carry on their striking midweek form were dispelled within minutes as the neat feet of Ladapo and Joel Grant opened up the home defence to allow Carey the opportunity for a shot which he lifted over.
The Pilgrims continued to take the game to their hosts, keeping United hemmed into their own half with excellent periods of passing and possession. Joel Grant was to the fore again as he linked with Carey and drove into the penalty area, electing to pass when a shot might have produced a better result.
In a way, it did, because Scunthorpe were obliged to hack the ball across their six-yard area and, from the corner, the Pilgrims took the lead. United failed to clear the ball, which was worked to Ladapo on the edge of the area and his shot on the spin took a handy deflection to ensure that it crept past the flat-footed home goalkeeper.
Scunthorpe, who have scored more than a quarter of their season’s goals in the first 15 minutes of matches, had not been in the game to this point, but such a free-scoring side was always going to threaten at some point.
Macey’s first involvement in the match was an easy gathering of James Perch’s soft header but the attempt signalled a period of pressure from a side that went into the match as the sixth-highest scorers in the division and who had netted in all but one of their previous home matches.
Stephen Humphreys looked the man most likely to add to the notable record, finding opportunities without being able to capitalise. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson’s left-wing cross probably deserved better than his volley which put the ball wide, while a header from Ryan Colclough was not strong enough to trouble Macey.
Ugbo sent a shot wide before Argyle regained their earlier ascendancy with some pleasingly creative quick passing that opened up spaces. Sarcevic was always looking to break through and so nearly did before he tumbled over his own feet in his eagerness to reach the ball.
The fourth official’s board had gone up to signal an extra two minutes to a decent first 45 for Argyle when Canavan lifted that description to another level.
A corner on the Argyle left found the tall former Iron’s run to the near post with perfect power and placement for a deft header inside the far post. In front of the end containing the home fans, Canavan respectfully kept his celebrations to a minimum.
Scunthorpe replaced the profligate Humphreys with Novak at the break and the substitute did not take long to make his mark, firing home after the Pilgrims could not clear the ball.
The home side’s dander was well and truly up, and the snow that had buffeted the team hotel on the morning of the match proved to be just the first storm of the day.
Macey made a wonderful save to deny Novak and although Ugbo forced the ball home, he was ruled offside. The on-loan Chelsea man then failed to make the most of a good opportunity fashioned for him by Perch.
Argyle found the perfect antidote to the pressure by breaking away to score with their first attack of the second half, working the ball to Sarcevic on the left for a cross to the far post which was squeezed in by Joel Grant.
Back came the home side with Macey twice showing excellent reflexes to keep out Novak, first with a dive to his left that resulted in a corner that was worked to the United substitute for a poke towards goal that the Pilgrims’ custodian clutched on the goal-line.
It was not all one-way traffic as Argyle probed for the ultimate nerve-setting fourth but Scunthorpe kept the Pilgrims honest, and Canavan further dissed his former club by clearing a header from substitute Kyle Wootton, that looped over Macey, off the line.
Argyle had the final word when, after Joel Grant had hit the post, Sarcevic swept the ball home in front of an ecstatic Green Army.
Scunthorpe United (4-4-1-1): 25 Jak Alnwick; 2 Jordan Clarke, 20 Charlie Goode, 23 Rory McArdle (capt), 3 Cameron Borthwick-Jackson; 49 Ryan Colclough, 8 James Horsfield, 14 James Perch, 10 Stephen Humphrys (17 Lee Novak half-time); 18 George Thomas; 9 Ike Ugbo (29 Kyle Wootton 78). Substitutes (not used): 12 Andy Dales, 21 Cameron Burgess, 22 Levi Sutton, 27 Jonathan Flatt (gk), 33 Lewis Butroid.
Booked: McArdle 17, Colclough 41, Thomas 56.
Argyle (4-3-3): 1 Matt Macey; 22 Tafari Moore, 4 Yann Songo'o, 14 Niall Canavan, 15 Conor Grant; 8 David Fox capt (13 Stuart O’Keefe 85), 6 Jamie Ness, 7 Antoni Sarcevic; 10 Graham Carey, 19 Freddie Ladapo, 16 Joel Grant. Substitutes (not used): 11 Ruben Lameiras, 20 Gregg Wylde, 21 Kyle Letheren (gk), 23 Ashley Smith-Brown, 24 Peter Grant, 35 Luke Jephcott.
Booked: Ness 60.
Referee: Scott Oldham.
Attendance: 3,508 (300 away, guesstimate).