Battle of Bramall Lane
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|Event||2001–02 First Division|
after 82 minutes with the score
Sheffield United 0–3 West Bromwich Albion. FA ruled score to stand for league standings.
|Date||16 March 2002|
|Venue||Bramall Lane, Sheffield|
The Battle of Bramall Lane is the informal name given to an English First Division football match between Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion at United's Bramall Lane ground on 16 March 2002. The match was unusual in that it was abandoned because Sheffield United had only six players left on the pitch.
With eight league matches of the 2001–02 season remaining,[nb 1] Albion lay in third place in the First Division on 67 points, 11 points behind rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers, who occupied the second automatic promotion spot. United meanwhile were in 15th position on 50 points, safe from relegation but not threatening the playoff places.
Nine minutes in, United's keeper, Simon Tracey, was sent off for handling the ball outside the penalty area and denying Albion an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock sent on the substitute keeper, Wilko de Vogt, taking off Peter Ndlovu. The visiting WBA scored a first-half goal through Scott Dobie against the 10-man United, and added a second goal in the 62nd minute through Derek McInnes.
The match turned truly ugly in the 65th minute, when Georges Santos, whom United had just brought on seconds earlier, was sent off for a high and poorly timed two-footed lunging tackle on Andy Johnson. When Johnson was playing for Nottingham Forest the previous season, he had fractured Santos' cheekbone and seriously damaged his eye socket with a swinging elbow. The two teams then scuffled on the pitch; in the mêlée, another United substitute, Patrick Suffo, was sent off for head-butting Derek McInnes. This reduced United to eight men, with no more substitutions left. Soon after, United captain Keith Curle was fortunate to avoid a sending off after appearing to throw punches at McInnes.
In the 77th minute, WBA added a third goal, Scott Dobie tapping in from short range. Two minutes later, Michael Brown limped off for United, and Robert Ullathorne went off injured in the 82nd minute, reducing them to six men. The referee, Eddie Wolstenholme, then abandoned the game with West Brom leading 3–0. The referee would have been aware of the IFA board guideline to law 3 which states "the minimum number of players in a team is left to the discretion of member associations. The Board is of the opinion, however, that a match should not continue if there are fewer than seven players in either team".
16 March 2002
after 82 minutes)
|West Bromwich Albion|
|(Report)||Dobie 18', 77'
West Bromwich Albion
There will be no replay. If we are called back to Bramall Lane we shall kick-off and then walk off the pitch. I've been in professional football since 16 and I'm 42 now. I've never ever witnessed anything as disgraceful as that. There is no place for that in any game of football, let alone professional football.
West Bromwich Albion were awarded a 3–0 win and the 3 points by the Football League. Sheffield United were fined £10,000, Patrick Suffo £3,000 plus a 6 match ban (3 for the dismissal, 3 for violent conduct), Keith Curle £500 and a 2 match ban, Georges Santos a 6 match ban (4, plus 2 for violent conduct) and Neil Warnock £300 for improper conduct towards the 4th official. Georges Santos and Patrick Suffo never played for United again.
Sheffield United finished the season 13th in the league, whilst West Brom were automatically promoted - the potential goal difference increase they missed in not completing the game was not crucial.
- Both Albion and United had played 38 games, although some other teams in the division had played 35 or 39.
- "Football League Division 1 table – Updated 15 March 2002". West Bromwich Albion F.C. 15 March 2002. Retrieved 26 September 2007.
- "From Cruyff v Van Gaal to Winterburn v McClair – football's greatest feuds". The Guardian. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
- "'Battle of Bramall Lane' abandoned". BBC Sport. 16 March 2002. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
- "West Brom awarded three points after 'Battle of Bramall Lane'". The Telegraph. 21 March 2002. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
- "Blades fined £10,000 over Battle of Bramall Lane". The Guardian. 3 May 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2014.