Four players - Chesterfield's Darren Carr and Kevin Davies and Plymouth's Tony James and Richard Logan - were sent off after an 88th-minute fight that involved all 19 outfield players. Argyle had already had Ronnie Mauge dismissed in the 36th minute for a high, two-footed tackle on Chris Beaumont - which meant this became the first time in Football League history that five players were sent off in one match.
The fight started after Carr, challenging for a cross, appeared to catch Bruce Grobbelaar with an elbow. The Plymouth goalkeeper, taking a bruising break from his match-fixing trial at Winchester Crown Court, was treated after the game for concussion.
"It's the first time in my career I've had to deal with anything like that, and it was quite frightening," the referee, Richard Poulain from Huddersfield, said. "The two No 6s [Carr and James] were having a boxing match in the net and the two No 8s [Davies and Logan] were exchanging blows outside the area."
The FA can be expected to discipline both clubs when they receive Poulain's report, and Chesterfield could be in further trouble because about 20 of their fans invaded the pitch and joined the melee before being restrained by stewards. The police may also prosecute the four players sent off, and possibly other culprits, after viewing film of the fracas.
Davies, who scored a hat-trick at Bolton in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and Carr will miss Chesterfield's quarter-final tie against Wrexham on Sunday week through suspension.
Plymouth's caretaker manager Mick Jones, who was disappointed that the brawl had overshadowed his team's courageous 2-1 win, said: "I thought the ref did well in difficult circumstances and I wouldn't argue with any of the decisions."
Plymouth finished the game with a dazed goalkeeper and, in front of Grobbelaar, their remaining players lined up in a revolutionary 3-3-1 formation...
Kray's good turn
Reggie Kray's gangland mates always said he had a heart of gold. Now there is an amateur team who would agree, after adopting the notorious killer as the unlikeliest club president in football.
Ashfield 95, of the Mansfield Bitter League, were so desperate for cash they were willing to try anything after numerous appeals for help came to naught. They were even turned down by the Prince's Trust, which was when their manager, David Howard, hit upon the bizarre idea of writing to Kray in Maidstone jail.
"Reggie was my last chance," Howard said, aware that Kray, had recently been given pounds 100,000 by a National Lottery winner. "I know he does good charity work and likes to help old people and youngsters."
Within days, Kray pledged pounds 1,000. "I've had a soft spot for Notts ever since I spent some time in Nottingham Prison," Kray told him. "After London, Nottingham is my favourite city."
So grateful are Ashfield they have made Kray club president, and are hoping he might one day pay them a visit. Not surprisingly, eyebrows have been raised. "We have written to the club asking for an explanation," FA official Mick Kilbee said. "We are reserving judgment until we have received a reply."
The former Tottenham striker says he wants to help Bayern Munich win the title rather than come back to England. Maybe he is also worried about compromising his role as a German spy, which requires him to put on bottle-top spectacles, assume a funny French accent and claim to be manager of Arsenal.
Take a bow
Who plays for the Portuguese club Maritimo - based on the island of Madeira - and has requested a transfer on grounds that are certainly original and possibly unique... he is scared stiff of landing at the island's tiny airport. "I am not afraid of flying, just of that short runway," he said.
The English game's governing body knew a good deal about the bad blood between Ian Wright and Peter Schmeichel but - not for the first time - failed to take action until their feud boiled over into back-page headlines and a damaging public row.
fact and fiction from the Sunday papers
There is a busy week ahead for Arsenal, according to the News of the World and the Sunday Mirror. The latter predicts a double swoop for the Milan forward Christian Dugarry and the Rangers wing-back David Robertson. Mirror spies also name Dugarry (pounds 6m), plus the Roma striker Francesco Dotti [sic] (pounds 10m), although Arsene Wenger may prefer to spend his money on Francesco Totti! Also mooted is a swap deal involving David Platt and Blackburn's Graeme le Saux, which adds credence to a People story that Le Saux and Colin Hendry, wanted by Newcastle, are ready to quit Ewood Park in the wake of the Sven Goran Eriksson fiasco. The People concurs with the Mirror in suggesting that unhappy Birmingham City may make Steve Bruce manager in place of Trevor Francis, and reports that Chelsea, snubbed in their attempts to sign Paolo Maldini from Milan, have been told they can have Marco Simone or Zvonimir Boban instead.
Nigel Quashie (QPR)
Hailed as one of the finds of the season after his debut as a 17-year- old against Manchester United in December 1995, the England youth international went on to score a spectacular goal against Chelsea in the FA Cup. But his progress was halted by glandular fever in March, since when he has started only five League games, the last in October, and struggled to relaunch his career.
Watch out for...
James Scowcroft (Ipswich Town)
After catching the eye when he took over from Ian Marshall in the Ipswich attack last season, the 21-year-old England Under-21 striker has continued to impress with eight goals so far this season. He has attracted scouts from Newcastle, Arsenal, Blackburn and Liverpool, who are reportedly planning a pounds 2m offer.
England can be proud of the Premier League. I can say that because I have played abroad and I know what the difference is."
Ruud Gullit, impressed with both sides in the Stamford Bridge showdown.
"He's a clever little bugger, much better than I thought."
Alex Ferguson, on Chelsea's Italian imp, Gianfranco Zola
"I know the fans like me. The important thing is whether the manager likes you."
Tony Yeboah, keen to get in George Graham's good books at Leeds.
"Eriksson obviously fancied the sunshine more than the cobbled streets and the flat caps. I suppose it is a fair swap."
Tony Parkes, Blackburn's continuing caretaker.
"If there was an infringement he was the only person in the ground who saw it."
Bryan Robson, after the Bristol referee Steve Dunn had ruled out a Ravanelli equaliser at the Riverside.
"If we had a full complement of players, I might have considered pulling out."
Ian Marshall, glad he did not after scoring his first Premiership hat- trick against Derby.
"I never knew it was closed."
Kenny Dalglish, asked if Saturday's results had opened up the title race.
Coca-Cola Cup 5; Europe 2.
Premiership 20; FA Cup 1;
Coca-Cola Cup 1; Europe 1.
Premiership 13; FA Cup 1;
Coca-Cola Cup 5; Europe 3.
Premiership 10; FA Cu 3;
Coca-Cola Cup 7.
Given that the first floodlit match in this country took place 119 years ago, it is more than surprising that no Football League fixture was played under lights until 78 years later, on 22 February 1956, when Newcastle beat Portsmouth 2-0 at Fratton Park.
History was made at Bramall Lane, Sheffield, in October 1878, when two local representative teams met before a crowd some estimates put at 20,000 on a pitch illuminated by lights with the equivalent power of 8,000 candles.
The organisers hailed the occasion a great success, although they scored something of an own goal by omitting to light the areas around the entrance gates, which led to thousands of supporters getting in for nothing.
More matches took place in London and Birmingham, but there were doubts about safety when a floodlight failure at Kilmarnock resulted in two players being so badly injured they were forced to retire.
The Football Association was in no hurry to embrace such innovation, imposing a ban on floodlights for competitive games in the 1930s, despite campaigning by Herbert Chapman, among others, for England to keep pace with the rest of the football world.
The authorities relented in 1951, allowing Arsenal to play Rangers under lights, the game attracting 60,000 spectators.
Now it was the players who were resisting the introduction of lights, complaining about long days - many still had other jobs - and late-night travelling. Strangely enough, the offer of extra payments for evening games led to the grumbles becoming rather less frequent.
THE SEASON'S RED AND YELLOW CARDS
Four yellow cards in five matches for Robert Molenaar.
Steve's Bould's booking against Manchester United was his second in as many games.
Ben Roberts, their goalkeeper, was lucky not to see red on Saturday.
A rare card-free day against Manchester United.Reuse content