Fleetwood Town were left ruing their missed opportunities as Uwe Rosler’s men let a two goal lead slip to draw 2-2 with Scunthorpe.
Town were clinical in the opening 60 minutes as former Fleetwood boss Graham Alexander’s return to Highbury started badly.
A 37th minute Eggert Jonsson header and David Ball’s fierce 51st minute strike gave Town a 2-0 advantage.
But Scunthorpe regrouped and peppered Town’s back-line before finally pulling a goal back in the 63rd minute as Tom Hopper bundled the ball over the line after Neal had parried away Jordan Clarke’s header.
But Town’s clinical touch deserted them as Devante Cole nodded a free header straight at Luke Daniels and the Iron levelled moments later.
But it was not just any old equaliser as dutch star Kevin Van Veen popped up with a goal of the season contender.
He picked the ball up on the left and cut inside before unleashing a stunning 25-yard curler that flew past Neal.
Town could have won it as substitute Ricardo Kip nodded the ball straight at Daniels unmarked but it took a triple save by Neal late on to ensure Fleetwood bagged a point when Rosler should have been celebrating his first win as Town boss.
But once again there are more positives than negatives as Rosler’s revolution continues to take shape.
Last term Town often struggled to make set-pieces pay and their final ball in the final third has never normally lived up to the build up.
But under Rosler’s tutelage they are beginning to look a genuine threat from set-pieces with numerous balls in from Grant, Ball, Ryan and Hunter causing problems.
Jonsson and Ball took their chances but Town will be kicking themselves after Cole and Kip’s free headers could have put the game to bed.
Unfortunately it looked as though Wednesday’s gruelling 120 minute penalty shoot-out defeat to Leeds took its toll as Scunthorpe, who had an extra day to recover from their Tuesday night 2-0 EFL Cup win over Notts County had more legs in the final 15 and pushed Town into a battle in their own third.
But despite being pushed back and forced to defend in numbers Town stood up to the challenge.
It was Alexander’s first return to Highbury after he was sacked in September 2015 and along with his assistant Chris Lucketti who left Highbury to join him in the summer he named former Town loanee Josh Morris in his starting line-up.
Rosler stuck with a 4-3-3 formation but made two changes to the side that lost 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out to Leeds United in the EFL Cup on Wednesday.
Captain Nathan Pond and ex-Iron player Bobby Grant returned to the starting line-up with Aaron Amadi-Holloway and Cian Bolger moving to the bench.
Scunthorpe had the brighter start as Alexander’s physical side that was packed full of pace searched for an early goal.
Duane Holmes carved out the first chance of the game as he stole in on the left of the box but his angled effort bobbled wide of the right stick.
Hakeeb Adelakun danced his way past Fleetwood’s defence and into the box but he blasted the ball wide of the right stick.
Fleetwood’s front three constantly pressed and harassed the Iron’s back-line and midfield and the pressure nearly paid dividends.
Cole caught Stephen Dawson in possession deep in the Scunthorpe half and steamed forward before slipping the ball to Ball on the left.
Ball dribbled his way towards the box but was felled by the recovering Dawson just as he was about to advance into the box.
The subsequent set-piece was in a plum position on the corner of the box and Ryan nearly gave Rosler’s men the lead as his terrific curling strike sailed over the wall and crashed into the bar.
Unlike the thrilling midweek cup game against Leeds this half was a game of attrition with both sides battling for control and trying to break each other down.
But Town, unlike last term, now look a threat from set-pieces and it was former Scunthorpe player Grant who engineered the opening goal of the game.
Grant was taken out mid-strike on the left by Clarke but he dusted himself down to whip in a peach of a cross towards a pack of red shirts in the mix and it was Jonsson who rose above the crowd to nod home in the 37th minute.
After a cloudy first 45 the sun came out for the second half.
Scunthorpe started the second 45 all guns blazing with Town losing the ball and frustrating Rosler in the dug out as he screamed ‘second ball’ at his players as they lost the ball numerous times in the opening stages.
Town turned a half chance into a goal in the 51st minute as the hosts carved out a fine counter-attack.
The hosts withstood the Iron’s pressure and countered from their own half through Ryan.
The midfielder bolted down the right before sliding the ball across to the unmarked Ball who had slipped into the gap between Scunthorpe’s midfield and defence to hone in on goal.
With a defender advancing towards him he coolly dropped his shoulder after he had sprinted towards the box, picked his spot and fizzed the ball right-footed past Daniels and into the bottom corner.a
But the goal reignited the opposition and after Sam Mantom nodded wide and Van Veen’s thunderbolt produced a fine finger-tip save from Neal who just diverted the ball over the bar.
But Scunthorpe finally got their reward from the subsequent corner as they took it short before floating it in towards Clarke who brushed off his marker Nirennold to win the first header.
His header was tipped away by Neal but only into the path of substitute Tom Hopper who diverted the ball over the line just five minutes after entering the fray.
Up the other end substitute Ash Hunter found space on the right just moments after coming on but Cole nodded a free header into the arms of Daniels and it was to prove a costly miss as Scunthorpe soon levelled in spectacular fashion.
The man the Iron fans have dubbed the ‘budget Bergkamp’ did his countryman pride as he continued to drop back and find space outside the box to try his luck.
He’d warned Fleetwood about what he could do just before the first goal and after finding space outside the box he skillfully scooped the ball into the top corner in the 67th minute.
Rosler sent on Amadi-Holloway to freshen up the attack and gave Kip his debut as he replaced Nirennold on the left of midfield.
And Kip nearly bagged a debut goal as Hunter once again danced down the right before putting the ball on a plate for the unmarked Kip in the box but he could only nod his effort straight at Daniels.
Town continued locked in a battle in their own third as Scunthorpe searched for a winner and forced Rosler’s men back behind the ball.
But Town, fatigued from their 120 minute extra time and penalty defeat marathon against Leeds on Wednesday battled hard, dug deep and withstood the Iron’s pressure as they turned the screw in the final 15 minutes.
Fortunately Neal was on hand to save Town’s skins with a fine triple save as he palmed away Luke Williams’ shot on the turn, Jordan Clarke’s shot from the right and just caught the rebound ahead of Hopper as the clock ticked towards full-time.
Fleetwood: Neal, McLaughlin, Bell, Jonsson, Eastham, Pond, Ryan, Ball, Grant (Hunter, 65), Nirennold (Kip, 79), Cole (Amadi-Holloway, 72). Subs not used: Cairns, Bolger, Duckworth, Haughton.
Scunthorpe: Daniels, Wallace, Mirfin, Dawson (Bishop, 86), Van Veen, Morris, Adelakun (Williams, 58), Mantom, Holmes (Hopper, 58), Townsend, Clarke. Subs not used: Anyon, Wiseman, Goode, Wootton.
Referee: Seb Stockbridge (Tyne)
Attendance 2509 (486 Scunthorpe)