Club News

BACK OF THE NET! 2 – Derek McInnes v Sheffield United, 2002

Winning the battle, McInnes style

To fill the days until football returns from the international break, Albion News editor Dave Bowler has been charged with selecting a top ten of Albion goals.

“Picking a top ten of Albion goals over a lifetime of watching isn’t easy. For starters, at this advanced age, I’ve forgotten most of them. And do you pick great goals, funny goals, important goals? It’s a good question and I’ll only know the answer by next week when I’ve finished with it, but all I can say is it’s going to be a very personal collection and you’ll almost certainly disagree with it. Argue away…”

It’s a reasonable assumption that the “Battle of Bramall Lane” is a game that will live long both in the memory and in the folklore of this football club. 

It’ll long be an historical footnote in the annals of the game too, that rarity, a football match abandoned by the referee because one of the teams had too few players left on it to proceed, Sheffield United having had three players red carded, then losing two more to injury after using all their substitutes.

Amid some horrific tackles and a series of bubbling riots that carried on across what we managed of the second half, the Throstles won a crucial victory and, it’s often forgotten, scored a superb second goal to make it 2-0 and essentially settle the game when it was still only 10 v 11. 

It was scored by skipper Derek McInnes, the fulcrum of that side, it’s driving force and inspiration across a lengthy campaign that saw us always seeming as if we were going to fall just short of the top two, the financially loaded Manchester City and Wolves. 

McInnes was having none of that and insisted that more was possible. And just to make his point, in the 63rd minute, he scored a goal that, to all intents and purposes, looked impossible. 

Albion won a corner but, in those pre-Brunt days, we didn’t play it into the box and look for a header. Instead, Igor Balis pulled the ball back to the edge of the box where McInnes was free.

It wasn’t necessarily Igor’s best delivery of the football, the pass skipping up off the turf, but running in to hit it, McInnes made the perfect connection and the ball simply ripped across goal and into the far corner before goalkeeper or defenders had chance to smell it, never mind stop it. Shades of Astle ’68.

All hell was let loose after that, the Blades immediately bringing on Santos and Suffo as subs, the pair lasting roughly two minutes before they were sent off too, Santos for an horrific tackle on Andy Johnson, Suffo for head butting McInnes.

Somehow, our players kept a lid on their emotions, we kept 11 on the pitch, we won the battle, we won the game and eventually, in the April, we won the war as well, getting automatic promotion after being seemingly dead and buried. 

But there weren’t any better, nor miraculous goals in that whole Lazarus season than the one from McInnes at Bramall Lane.

  • Feature