Iron edge play-off classic
Scunthorpe secured promotion with a 3-2 victory over Millwall in a thrilling League One play-off final.
Last Updated: 24/05/09 7:39pm
Scunthorpe secured promotion on Sunday with a 3-2 victory over Millwall in a thrilling League One play-off final.
Two goals from Matt Sparrow and a late winner from Martyn Woolford saw the Iron cancel out a quick-fire brace from Gary Alexander.
Both sides made a mockery of the soaring temperatures throughout an open first half, with defences taking something of a battering.
It took just six minutes for the deadlock to be broken, with David Forde unable to hold a low effort down to his left and Sparrow was on hand to fire the loose ball into the roof of the net.
Spurred on by some 45,000 supporters, Millwall quickly came back into the game and it appeared to be only a matter of time before they forced an equaliser.
It duly arrived on 37 minutes as Alexander sent a 30-yard thunderbolt sailing over the head of Joe Murphy.
The Lions frontman then completed a remarkable turnaround in fortune for the capital club two minutes later when he squeezed a stopping header into the bottom corner, through the fingertips of Murphy.
The tempo, unsurprisingly, dropped slightly after the break, but chances continued to come and go at regular intervals.
Scunthorpe thought they had found a leveller when Liam Trotter volleyed a low corner goalwards, but the Lions somehow scrambled clear.
Nigel Adkins' men did restore parity 20 minutes from time, though, as Sparrow displayed admirable composure to dance around Forde and lash home.
Alexander wasted a glorious opportunity to settle matters in Millwall's favour when he sent a close-range header past the post, and he was made to pay for his wastefulness.
With just five minutes left on the clock the Lions failed to deal with a Scunthorpe set-piece and Woolford drilled a low effort past Forde.
Both sides made a lively start and Scunthorpe took the lead with a fine goal in the sixth minute.
Paul Hayes found Gary Hooper with a clever flick and the striker placed a backheel perfectly into Woolford's path.
The winger hit a low left-footed shot which Forde palmed out and Sparrow reacted first to slam into the roof of the empty net .
Hooper's movement was too good for the Millwall back line in the early stages and he then hit the post from an improbable angle tight on the goal line after again finding space wide on the right.
Kenny Jackett's side were creating chances themselves, though, and Alexander pulled them level with a fabulous goal in the 37th minute.
A throw-in from the left was headed forward to the striker who pulled the ball down on his chest with his back to goal.
The forward then turned and hit a stunning shot on the bounce from 30 yards which sailed over goalkeeper Murphy and into the back of the net.
The huge number of Lions fans erupted and were at it again just two minutes later when Alexander grabbed his second.
David Martin stood up a cross to the centre of the area and Alexander thundered a header into the bottom corner which Murphy got a hand to but could not stop from finding the net.
The goalkeeper had been the hero of the semi-final by saving two penalties against the MK Dons but he should have kept the ball out.
With temperatures nudging 100 degrees on the pitch, matching the scintillating pace of the first-half was a big ask of the players and the first 10 minutes of the second period passed by without a sight of goal for either side.
The game was in a lull but Scunthorpe responded well to level in the 70th minute with another excellent goal.
Woolford played a one-two with Hayes down the left and burst past Zak Whitbread into the area.
He crossed behind Hooper to Sparrow who had picked up a position unmarked in the middle of the area.
The winger showed remarkable composure to calmly sidestep Forde and, with three defenders converging on him, clip a left-foot shot into the roof of the net.
Alexander then wasted the chance of scoring a hat-trick at Wembley when he met substitute Chris Hackett's cross with a header that flew a yard wide of the near post as both sides searched for a winner in normal time.
And Adkins' men found it in the 85th minute.
A long free-kick forward was not dealt with and after Sparrow and Hayes both saw efforts blocked, Woolford collected the ball and rifled a low shot right through Forde into the Millwall net.
There was still time for Millwall's record goalscorer Neil Harris to spurn a good chance but Scunthorpe held on for a famous victory which sees them back in the Championship at the first time of asking.