Vital SWFC forum stalwart Lee Hague (‘will it ever happen’) tells us about his big derby day out..
5.15am – I woke up with my belly churning away. The nerves got to me big time and I was shaking like a leaf. Tried to get back to sleep but that wasn’t possible so just laid there, hands behind head, looking up at ceiling, brain buzzing. What our team would be, what team they would choose, what formations, what the scoreline was going to be after 90 minutes.. my mind was racing.
Got up at 7am because thinking about what might happen wasn’t doing my heart any good. Decided to go to the loo because I’m sure I would have had an accident otherwise. Then had a cup of tea and contemplated having a fag although I don’t smoke. Was hoping the tea might calm me down but it didn’t, so time for a bath, visiting the loo once more just to be on the safe side!! After 20 minutes in the tub (no nothing like that, just thinking again) decided that I should get dressed and deliver the kids to my sister’s.
Grabbed a taxi to take me down to the Rowson’s in Hillsborough. Walked in at 9.05am and ordered a bottle of lager and a full fry up. Found a table to sit at and waited for friends and family to turn up. Whilst waiting for my full English was drinking away and chatting with mates (including Rich, ‘S8 OWLS S8’ on the forum) on how nervous they were and what they thought the match was going to turn out like. Have to say the majority of us predicted a Wednesday victory but a tight game (good judges, as it turned out). After asking a waitress where my fry up was, the nerves really started to kick in and I felt really shaky.
She came over with my full English within a minute of asking, so sat down and scoffed away, ignoring the jealous looks. We all continue to chatter away and sup some more until it was time for the 10 minute walk to the ground, which was bit of a blur, can’t really remember anything we said. Reaching the turnstiles we shook hands, wishing each other good luck as we went off to different areas of the South Stand.
Me, my dad and two mates approached our seats and spotted the big screen. Initially, I was a bit disappointed with the size of it but the picture quality was great. Couldn’t see anyone I knew, but it was amazing to see so many fans filling out the stand. You had the feeling that the result was going to go our way, but the nerves were now really at their worst. I just couldn’t wait for the kick-off.
As the teams were shown on the big screen I said to my dad that the United side doesn’t look anything special and we shouldn’t be frightened. I could see us taking all three points from the game and the confidence grew in me. The atmosphere picked up and once a few started singing, everyone started singing. Absolutely amazing and you could feel the place bouncing. Outside the ground it must have sounded like the ground was full. As the commentary blared out from Radio Sheffield I looked up at the clock.. 5 minutes till kick-off, just couldn’t wait. Then the teams came out and a huge roar from us all. It was show time!!
The ref blew his whistle: the nerves had gone now and it was pure excitement running through my body. My seat was really cramped but no matter, I was standing up straight away when Gray had the ball on the edge of the United box. He played it across and I was just waiting for a United player to clear it away but.. Tommy Spurr ran in and hit an 18 yard screamer into the back of the net. Jumping up and down with one arm around my dad and my other arm around my mate, just sheer delight and what a fantastic unexpected start to a derby game! We were still bouncing a few minutes after the goal: the replays came up on the big screen and every time they showed Spurr’s goal it got a huge cheer.
We took our seats again trying to squeeze our legs in. I told my dad that we need to keep it tight and not let them back into the game straight away.. it seemed like 30 seconds later they scored and from everyone being on a high we were all now very quiet for the first time. What a great start, though.
The first 10-15 minutes were very scrappy because United were playing the long ball and it was more head tennis than football. But the game started to settle down and some football was being played. For me, we seemed the more relaxed and seemed more up for it, closing United down and putting in some strong challenges. I couldn’t believe United were playing it long; that just suited us because the back four were winning everything. Well, you would expect them to when they have two strikers nowhere near 6ft.
I was concerned about Halford and his long throws: more like corners, if not better. I thought one of them would get us at some point in the game but the defence was holding up well. The only mistake I saw from the defence is when Beevers decide to let a ball go instead of clearing it out which got me slightly peed off because there’s been a little more of this from him of late. To see Spurr and Beevers having a go at each other should have ‘Spurred’ United and their fans on. All I could do was shout at a 45ft screen telling them to calm down and get on with it!
Chances then came at either end with Montgomery going close with a volley, then Clarke stretching and putting one over the bar. Bromby hit the post at the other end and you just could feel that there were going to be more goals. The first half seemed to be going on for ever and when I looked at the clock I was amazed to see there was only twenty odd minutes played. By this time the pre-match beer started to kick in, so I waited for the ball to go out of play and when it did I did a quick run to the lav. I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast. After yet again squeezing into my seat it wasn’t long before we were all up going wild. I was screaming at the screen again, telling Tudders to play the ball wide to Clarke who had space. But to see him run 10 yards with the ball and shoot from where he did and then to see the ball go like a rocket into the top corner of the net is something I will never ever forget.
I went completely ballistic and everybody in the ground was on a high yet again and the place was rocking. We were all hoping that we could keep it like this till half time. At times you could hear the commentary from Radio Sheffield when the noise had died down and to hear John Pearson say ‘I bet those 9,000 fans at Hillsborough are bouncing’ was fantastic and it brought a great cheer from the ground and yet again we started to sing and bounce. We were now on top and i felt a lot more relaxed and certainly a lot more confident. You could feel it around the stand: this is going to be our day!!
Half time was here and we could relax. Checked my mobile to see loads of text messages but left them alone until after the game just in case I got a bit too cocky and things didn’t go our way. Spotted a few people I know so had a quick chat with them and they were thinking the same as me… we are going to win this!! Another pit stop and back to my seat.
I knew United would come out fighting but just hoped they continued with the long ball because we were coping with it really well. Halford’s long throws were still a worry, but I was so glad that Henderson got sent off against Southampton. He would have loved competing for that kind of ball and I’m sure he would have made one of them count.
The second half was it was all United and that we defended really well. It was edge of your seat stuff and I just had my head in my hands for most of it. Just kept looking at my dad and he was as nervous as me and kept on looking at his watch. But he seemed to be keeping together and not getting up and down,shouting all the time. Probably because he managed to get his legs in a comfy position and didn’t dare get up! I wish I could have stayed sitting because I was constantly up and down telling the players what to do with the ball, which must’ve annoyed the guys behind me.
We had a few counter attacks which we could have done better with. JJ for one when trying to run it all the way when he should have laid the ball off to Gray and vice versa when Gray had the ball. It was all getting too much for me and it was really making my heart race. Don’t think i’ve felt my heart beat as quick as it did during the second half. Then I was up because I thought Clarke had scored and made it 3-1 but his shot hit the post. That would have ended the game as a contest.
Time was now dragging and it seemed to be going backwards, not forwards, I couldn’t stop looking at the clock on the North Stand. The atmosphere in the ground was now electric. United were still playing the long ball and when their subs didn’t really change anything. The players they brought on were dwarfs: our defence coped with the strikers and Lee Hendrie didn’t really contribute.
We were getting closer to a famous victory and the first double over our neighbours for 95 years. JJ got a standing ovation when he was substituted and i said to my dad ‘It’s a shame he cant be like this week in week out’. Loved it when he came off though because he made sure he took his time and you could hear the Unitedites booing him. The cameras at the Lane kept showing the Wednesdayites bouncing then going to the Blunts sad and gloomy faces which got huge cheers from us at Hillsborough.
I knew there was going to be a good four or five minutes of injury time because of the subs and the physio had been on a few times during the half so it was no surprise when I heard four added on. I looked at my dad – calm(ish). Then I looked at my mates – terrified. Then the moment came when I knew it was going to be our day. Sharp’s turn and shot that was surely heading for the back of the net only for Grant to somehow get his fingertips to the ball and tip it over the bar. Hillsborough was on its feet applauding Grant, not for the first time this season. The camera at the Lane showed the disbelief on the United faces and I think they knew it was all over.
The four minutes seemed like twenty, but when the whistle did come every one in the South Stand went barmy. Something I will never forget: not one person didn’t have their arms up in the air, jumping up and down, hugging each other and even some fans had tears in their eyes. It’s something I haven’t felt in a long time. Think the last time I felt like this was in the play-off final at Cardiff. I just turned to my dad and just gave him a big hug which i haven’t done since I was a kid: that’s how much it meant. We were all singing after the full time whistle and long afterwards. To see the players and Brian Laws celebrating afterwards just shows you how much it means to everyone associated with the club.
Off we went back home to carry on the party with family and friends and we celebrated to the early hours!
A day I will never forget. Let’s hope we can have the run on the Blades for many years to come. Up the Owls!!