On This Day – 16th March

It was on this day in 2002 that a farcical match took place between Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion at Bramall Lane.

The match later became known as ‘The Battle of Bramall Lane’, after fights broke out between the opposing teams on several occasions and Sheffield United were reduced to eight men. After using their full quota of three substitutes, United then had two players go off injured, leaving them with only six men on the field. With no substitutes left to step in and replace them, the game had to be called off as the minimum amount of players allowed on the pitch is set at seven.

Sheffield United’s first dismissal happened in the 9th minute, when goalkeeper Simon Tracey handled the ball outside the box. United boss Neil Warnock brought reserve keeper Wilko de Vogt on, with striker Peter Ndlovu making way.

West Brom were two goals up thanks to goals from Scott Dobie and Derek McInnes. The match descended into anarchy in the 65th minute. Both Georges Santos and Patrick Suffo had been on the field for less than a minute after coming on a substitues, when Santos was given a straight red for a two-footed challenge on West Brom’s Andy Johnson. A melee ensued and Suffo headbutted Derek McInnes, who had scored just two minutes earlier.

With three sendings off, United were now down to eight men. Two minutes later, things became more desperate as their midfielder Michael Brown had to go off injured. This took them down to seven men – the minimum allowed on the field.

The hosts struggled along, despite conceding a third in the 77th minute when Scott Dobie added his second of the match. Five minutes later though, the match was abandoned as defender Rob Ullathorne went off injured.

As West Brom were leading 3-0 at the time the game was called off, the score was allowed to stand. It was probably for the best after all the ill-feeling between both of the teams!

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