Spot-kick joy for Scunthorpe
Scunthorpe United reached this season's League One play-off final after they held their nerve to defeat MK Dons 7-6 on penalties.
By James Dall
Last Updated: 18/05/09 2:17pm
Scunthorpe United reached this season's League One play-off final after they held their nerve to defeat MK Dons 7-6 on penalties on Friday evening.
The tie was delicately poised after the first meeting seven days ago at Glanford Park ended in a 1-1 draw, and neither side could be separated over a cagey 90 minutes at stadium:mk.
Scunthorpe just about edged the first half in terms of goalscoring chances, although the home team grew into the game and asserted control in the second period, coming the closest to a winner as Jason Puncheon hit the foot of the post.
The quality from both teams dipped in extra-time as mental and physical fatigue took their toll, but Scunthorpe came within inches of breaking MK Dons hearts when David Mirfin's close-range stab at goal hit the woodwork minutes before the encounter went to penalties.
A thrilling shoot-out ensued with MK Dons and the Iron both presented with opportunities to win, but it was Tore Andre's miss that proved decisive as Scunthorpe booked a meeting with Millwall in the final at Wembley on 24th May.
The result denied Robert Di Matteo, a three-time cup-winning goalscorer with the Blues, a chance to return to Wembley in his first season as a manager.
But in truth these two sides could have played all night without finding the net.
Scunthorpe, losers in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, should have opened the scoring after 20 minutes when Garry Thompson danced into the area, but he delayed his shot and allowed Miguel Llera to make a goal-saving tackle.
The Dons got their first decent sight of goal when Sam Baldock's fierce drive was parried by Murphy into the path of top-scorer Wilbraham, who could only divert the rebound wide.
After the break, Wilbraham was inches away from breaking the deadlock with a low first-time shot from Sam Baldock's chest down which just flew the wrong side of the post.
Dons defender Llera was nearly left red-faced with a back-header which fell well short of keeper Willy Gueret and let in United striker Paul Hayes, who prodded his shot narrowly wide.
Hayes then got on the end of a long Murphy clearance but his attempted header over Gueret landed in the keeper's arms.
Moments later Wilbraham missed the chance of the game after Carl Regan reached the byline and fizzed the ball across goal, only for the 17-goal striker to barely make contact from two yards out as the opportunity went begging.
Substitute Luke Chadwick passed up a chance to go down in MK Dons' brief history when he headed wide in stoppage time.
Iron came closest to winning it in extra time with sub Jonathan Forte firing wide and Mirfin deflecting an attempted clearance onto a post.
And when the inevitable penalties arrived, Scunthorpe skipper Cliff Byrne fired over only for Jason Puncheon to be denied by Murphy.
Matt Sparrow then hit the crossbar but Jude Stirling, given the chance to win it, fired straight at Murphy.
Lee Morris held his nerve for Scunthorpe and 35-year-old Flo blasted his effort against the bar to send the visitors through.