Four-midable Irons are too strong for U's - 24/11/2003
Scunthorpe United 4 v 0 Cambridge United
Striker Steve MacLean was again the toast of Glanford Park with yet another hat-trick as in-form Scunthorpe ran the Cambridge defence ragged to stretch their unbeaten run to nine games.
But it was his stand-in partner up front Paul Hayes who set United on the victory trail with a spectacular opening goal to remind manager Brian Laws of his own scoring ability. It helped trigger an impressive team performance from the Iron as they ended up winning by a canter a match that was supposed to be a big test for them.
Cambridge arrived with a spring in their step, boasting the best away record in the third division with just one defeat in nine games.
They left with their tails firmly between their legs after their biggest defeat of the season with player-boss John Taylor calling his squad in yesterday to sit through a 'video nasty' of what went wrong.
What did go wrong was the visitors could not recover from conceding two goals in six minutes in the early stages.
Forced to chase the game, they were then unable to break down a for once solid Scunthorpe defence and left gaps at the opposite end which United exposed brilliantly in the closing stages to rattle up another decisive home win.
The Iron opened the scoring from their second corner of the game in the 12th minute with MacLean's flag kick from the right flicked on to beyond the far post by Andy Butler where Hayes rifled a spectacular right foot volley into the top corner of the net for what was only his second league goal of the season.
But it was a real cracker from a young player anxious to show he has lost none of the ability or the confidence that made him a big favourite with the Glanford Park fans last year after being plucked from the youth ranks at Norwich.
Six minutes later and the Cambridge defence was breached again when veteran winger Peter Beagrie fired in a left wing cross deep towards the far post where MacLean showed his predatory instincts by arriving first to apply the finishing touch with a header from point blank range.
At 2-0 down, and clearly stunned, Cambridge looked to their prolific marksman Dave Kitson, with 11 goals to his credit this season, to get them back into the game.
He tried to ruffle Andy Butler with his physical presence but the young Iron centre back came through with flying colours in yet another impressive performance.
And with left-back Kevin Sharp keeping a close watch on pacy winger Shane Tudor, it was Scunthorpe who looked more likely to add to their lead.
They might have done so when goalkeeper Shaun Marshall failed to take cleanly a long range effort from Beagrie but Hayes was not quite able to force home the rebound.
Cambridge did squander a golden opportunity to get themselves back into the game just before the break when midfield man Luke Guttridge, unmarked on the edge of the six yard box, stabbed his shot weakly wide of the target after a great run into the box by Kitson had opened up the home defence.
Boss Taylor, now aged 39, brought himself on at the start of the second half to try and inspire a Cambridge revival, but apart from one angled drive from Kitson that goalkeeper Tommy Evans did well to turn away, there was little threat. Gradually it was United who began to get forward again with plenty of good movement. Both Hayes and Beagrie tested goalkeeper Marshall and it looked only a matter of time before a third goal would come.
It finally arrived in the 71st minute from the second of two successive corners fired in from the left by Beagrie. Cambridge centre back Adam Tann only succeeded in rattling his own post as he tried to head clear and as he ball came back off the woodwork it was that man MacLean who again reacted the quickest to force it home from close range.
It was game over, and for a spell United threatened to run riot with MacLean twice more denied by good saves from Marshall while substitute Ian Kilford also tested the Cambridge 'keeper with a fierce drive.
United finally made it 4-0 in the second minute of stoppage time when, from a corner routine on the left, Beagrie supplied another good cross to the near post where MacLean steered a glancing header into the far corner.
It was a moment of history for United with the young Scot becoming the first player in the club's history to score three hat-tricks in the same season.
And who is to say he might not add one or two more in the matches he has left to play for Scunthorpe before his loan spell from Glasgow Rangers is due to expire at the beginning of January.
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