Football: Double pitch invasion at New Den delays Derby victory

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The Independent Online
Millwall. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Derby County. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

(Derby County win 5-1 on aggregate)

MILLWALL supporters disgraced themselves again last night and cast another shadow over the reputation of the South London club, who are certain to face sanctions from the Football Association. Two pitch invasions, during which Derby County players were kicked and barged to the ground, brought separate interruptions totalling 33 minutes to the First Division play-off semi-final at The New Den. Later, fans overturned vehicles and caused damage in the car park. Police made 20 arrests, while during the game, 30 fans were ejected. Two police officers were injured.

The Derby striker, Marco Gabbiadini, said: 'We feel we have been through a war, not a football match.' Their goalkeeper, Martin Taylor, who was floored by a fan, described it as the 'most intimidating atmosphere I have known. I was punched in the ribs but luckily I got to my feet quickly enough to reach the tunnel.'

With Derby two ahead from the first game, another goal for the visitors was always likely to be the spark that ignited the flames. When they had doubled their advantage by the 23rd minute, hundreds of home fans in the East Stand began to congregate at the front of their section, challenging police and spoiling for a fight.

As the blue line struggled to hold them at bay, a handful of supporters from the opposite stand came on to the pitch and the referee, Brian Hill, was forced to signal the first stoppage and lead the players off. It lasted 20 minutes while police reinforcements, some on horseback, ushered people back to their seats and restored order.

After 74 minutes, and with Millwall attempting to retrieve a 5-1 deficit overall, some of the thugs returned and this time they got at the Derby players. Apart from Taylor, Gordon Cowans and Paul Williams were punched and kicked. The second delay lasted 13 minutes and the game continued with no more disruption. Sensibly, Derby had taken the precaution near the end of withdrawing their black players, Williams and Gary Charles, who throughout had been subjected to racist abuse.

For the record, Gabbiadini and Tommy Johnson shot Derby ahead and a Pat Van Den Hauwe own- goal made it three at half-time. Greg Berry grabbed Millwall's solitary reply in the second half.

The Millwall chairman, Reg Burr, said there would be a 'thorough investigation' into the disturbances. He added: 'Of course I feel saddened but there was no violence that I saw. I don't know anything about players being punched and kicked. The FA representative was here and saw it all and what the FA decide to do they will do.'

Millwall (4-3-1-2): Keller; Cunningham, Van Den Hauwe, Stevens, Huxford; Rae, Hurlock, Berry; Allen; Moralee, Mitchell. Substitutes not used: Kerr, Goodman, Carter (gk).

Derby County (4-4-2): Taylor; Charles (Hayward, 85), Short, Williams (Cavanagh, 85), Forsyth; Harkes, Cowans, Pembridge, Simpson; Johnson, Gabbiadini. Substitute not used: Sutton (gk).

Referee: B Hill (Northants).


Ground closed for disciplinary reasons in 1934, 1947 and 1950.

1967: Fined pounds 1,000 after attack on referee Norman Burtenshaw by spectators at The Den.

1978: Fined pounds 1,500, ground closed two weeks after crowd trouble at FA Cup tie v Ipswich. Club also barred from staging home FA Cup ties for next two seasons.

1985: Fined pounds 7,500 and following season's FA Cup ties all-ticket after riot at Luton.