West Brom’s away clash with Sheffield United back in March 2002 will be forever remembered as the ‘Battle Of Bramall Lane’ after being abondoned on 82 minutes when the home side only had six players left on the pitch.
Only eight games of the 2001/02 season remained and third-placed West Brom were desperate to close the gap on Wolves who sat 11 points ahead in the second automatic promotion spot. The Baggies were in decent form and considered a relatively safe bet to take three points from Sheffield United who were in 15th position on 50 points, with their season effectively over as they were safe from relegation, but not threatening the playoff places.
Not long after the game got underway, referee Eddie Wolstenholme was called into action as United’s goalkeeper Simon Tracey handled the ball outside his area and was given his marching orders for denying Albion a clear goalscoring opportunity. The home side were forced to re-shuffle the pack early on and used their first substitiution to replace striker Peter Ndlovu with replacement stopper Wilko de Vogt.
It was plain-sailing for West Brom from that point, as they capitalised on their numerical advantage to go ahead before half-time through Scott Dobie. After the break Derek McInnes got on the score-sheet to double Albion’s lead with less than half an hour to play, but things were about to get ugly at Bramall Lane.
More Red Cards For Sheffield United
Sheff Utd boss Neil Warnock made a double substitiution after seeing his side go 2-0 down, with Georges Santos and Patrick Suffo replacing Michael Tonge and Gus Uhlenbeek. Moments after entering the fray Santos lunged in two-footed on Andy Johnson and was duly given his marching orders, reducing United’s on-field quota to 9.
But with tensions already high between the players there was worse to come and a melee ensued moments later. In the confusion Patrick Suffo clashed heads with Derek McInnes and was also shown a red card, reducing United to eight men. In another scuffle between the players, United captain Keith Curle was fortunate to avoid his side’s fourth sending off after appearing to lash out at McInnes.
With just under quarter of an hour to play, Scott Dobie scored his second goal of the game with a tap-in to increase the defecit to three, but there was more drama to come. United were reduced to seven when Michael Brown limped off injured with 10 minutes remaining and on 82 minutes Robert Ullathorne’s injury left Wolstenholme with no choice but to abandon the game as Sheff Utd only had six players left on the pitch.
The Baggies were credited with a 0-3 success by the Football League and went on to overtake Wolves to ensure their return to the top flight by finishing second in the table behind runaway leaders Manchester City.
Watch the video highlights below to re-live one of the Football League’s craziest ever games.