Football: Derby's big night ends in the dark
Thursday 14 August 1997
Derby County 2 Wimbledon 1 Match abandoned - 56 mins
As they wake to the embarrassing reports of how their first competitive match at the pounds 23m Pride Park Stadium was abandoned following a floodlight failure last night, Derby can be grateful for one small mercy. At least, unlike Sunderland, they resisted the temptation to call their new home the Stadium of Light.
With 11 minutes of the second half gone and Derby resisting a Wimbledon fightback, the pitch was plunged into darkness. By the time the lights flickered into life again, 34 minutes later, Uriah Rennie had already taken the decision to abandon what was his first fixture as a Premiership referee.
The Derby vice-chairman, Peter Gadsby, later accused Wimbledon of forcing the official into a premature decision. "There were two sides out there - one wanted to play and the other didn't," he said. "Their attitude was natural, but there was a lot of pressure put on the referee by Wimbledon."
The floodlight failure had resulted, he said, from a "bang" which fused two generators causing a loss of power. "We believed we'd covered all eventualities. We had 11 maintenance men working tonight, and six were electricians."
Joe Kinnear laughed off Gadsby's allegation. "It's absolute nonsense," the Wimbledon manager said. "I couldn't get near the ref. We just wanted a decision made, but right from the start we were given 10 different stories.
"First we were told it would be five minutes. Then someone said they needed 10 minutes to check the generators. Then they said `give us another five'. At ten past nine we were told 9.30 was the cut-off point."
Full power was finally restored at 9.33, prompting loud applause from the 24,571 crowd, who had had sat patiently despite a lack of information. Cheers turned to anger when the public-address system - which had also been affected by the power failure - informed them that the match would not continue.
Kinnear explained that he felt it was unreasonable to ask his team to play on after such a protracted delay. "The players were stiffening up, so there was a risk of injury," he said His opposite number, Jim Smith, declined to comment, as did Mr Rennie.
Derby had gone ahead after 20 minutes, when Ashley Ward headed home. Wimbledon equalised within 60 seconds, Chris Perry rising to convert a corner, only for Stefano Eranio to illuminate a promising if short-lived debut with a second goal after 32 minutes.
Derby County (3-5-2): Poom; Dailly, Stimac, Laursen; Eranio, Hunt, Carsley, Van der Laan, C Powell; Ward, Burton. Substitutes not used: Rowett, D Powell, Simpson, Trollope, Hoult (gk).
Wimbledon (4-4-2): Sullivan: Cunningham, Perry, Blackwell, Kimble; Ardley (Castledine, h-t), James, Earle, Hughes (Clarke, h-t); Ekoku, Gayle. Substitutes not used: Thatcher, Holdsworth, Heald (gk).
Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).
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