IT was with a mixture of pride and frustration that Bury boss David Flitcroft left Glanford Park on Saturday.
Pride at the fact his side had outplayed the league leaders for large periods of a game that saw them twice come from behind in the second half to earn a well-deserved point.
Danny Rose was the last-gasp hero, curling home Bury’s second equaliser in the 95th minute after Tom Soares had cancelled out a Paddy Madden opener, only for Paul Hayes to put the Iron back in front.
Flitcroft’s frustration was directed at the refereeing team, who he accused of making mistakes in the build-up to both Scunthorpe goals.
But that failed to dampen his enthusiasm for a display that saw Bury dominate possession for large spells at the home of the league leaders, who notched up their 26th game unbeaten since the arrival of manager Russ Wilcox.
“They are a very organised, functional team – you don’t go on the run they have without being an excellent football team with a top-class manager,” said Flitcroft.
“But I didn’t think they could handle our energy and without that late equaliser I would have had an axe to grind.”
Bury had the lion’s share of possession and chances in the opening half, when on-loan Everton striker Hallam Hope came closest to opening the scoring with a left-footed shot that rattled the crossbar.
But the match turned on a bizarre sequence of events that led to the Iron opener.
Chris Hussey went down injured after conceding a corner, but Flitcroft seemed reluctant to send on the physio, preferring his left-back to carry on and defend the set-piece.
Referee Andy Haines intervened, demanding treatment for Hussey’s eye problem before making the defender leave the pitch while the corner was taken.
And he could only watch from the touchline as Madden breached the offside trap to redirect a shot from Hakeeb Adelakun past stranded Shakers stopper Brian Jensen after the set-piece had been partially cleared.
“We have a rule that if we have to defend a corner you stay on the pitch (even if you are injured),” said Flitcroft.
“But the referee has ordered the player off the pitch and I have never seen that before.
“Hussey was saying he had lost one of his contact lenses and it had scratched his eye. But go and defend the corner with one eye – pirates do all right with their gold!” he joked.
Soares quickly cancelled out the Iron opener on 69 minutes when he headed home Andrew Tutte’s pin-point set-piece for his third goal in as many games.
But midfielder Danny Mayor, filling in for Hussey at left-back, conceded a penalty 10 minutes later when he was adjudged to have tripped winger Terry Hawkridge.
Jensen saved the resulting spot-kick, diving low to his right, but Hayes, who took the penalty, made amends by slamming home the rebound.
Flitcroft, however, believes the officials got it wrong, claiming Mayor won the ball cleanly.
“From the linesman’s vantage point I can understand why he has given it, but the referee had the perfect view so he’s got to overrule the decision,” he said.
“When Russ Wilcox was asking me ‘has he got anything right?’ when they were 2-1 up that tells you everything you need to know about the refereeing team.”
Thankfully for Bury, they were able to get back into the game a second time, using up all but one of the six minutes added on for Hussey’s delayed departure before Rose’s deserved late leveller.
The 20-year-old on-loan Barnsley striker, who replaced Danny Nardiello on 53 minutes, latched on to Clive Platt’s lay-off with an instant snapshot, bending the ball inside the far post.
“Everyone talks about his energy and enthusiasm for the game, but Danny Rose is capable of that sort of quality,” added Flitcroft.
“I think as Danny gets older he might slow down a bit and become incredibly prolific, but he puts so much work into all attributes of his game.”
The point may well prove to be more useful for the visitors, who moved above Rochdale to go top of the League Two table, while Bury dropped a place to 11th, eight points outside the play-offs with four games remaining.
SCUNTHORPE UNITED: Slocombe; Nolan, Mirfin, Canavan, Williams; Hawkridge, Sparrow (Collins 71), Syers, Adelakun (Burton 90+1); Madden, Winnall (Hayes 71). Not used: Severn, Ribeiro, Waterfall, Gooden.
BURY: Jensen 8; Jones 7, Mills 8, McNulty 7, Hussey 7 (Platt 7 66); Soares 7 (Procter 6 80), Tutte 8, Sedgwick 7, Mayor 7; Nardiello 5 (Rose 8 53), Hope 7. Not used: Charles-Cook, Hinds, Grimes, Burke.
Goals: Scunthorpe United 2 (Madden 62, Hayes 76) Bury 2 (Soares 69, Rose 90+5).
Yellow cards: Scunthorpe United – Nolan 68.
Referee: Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear).
Attendance: 4,162 (443 visiting).
Star man: Andrew Tutte – The central midfielder put in his most dominant display yet since arriving from Rochdale in the January transfer window. He certainly answered manager David Flitcroft’s call to offer more support to the forward line, and stepped up to the plate for the set-pieces after Chris Hussey left the pitch with an eye injury. His free kick was put on a sixpence for Tom Soares to head home Bury’s first equaliser and he never stopped probing until the final whistle.