Atmosphere at big game was ‘brilliant’

derbysCL'Ann Pace, aged 63 with Roger Pace, 62, with granddaugther Melissa Smith, aged 9.'Celebrating their win at the Steel City Derby
derbysCL'Ann Pace, aged 63 with Roger Pace, 62, with granddaugther Melissa Smith, aged 9.'Celebrating their win at the Steel City Derby
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Carnival feel as police carry out one of the biggest operations of the year

A HANDFUL of arrests did little to mar the carnival atmosphere that marked the 127th Steel City derby - with Sheffield Wednesday fans earning the bragging rights.

Weeks of anticipation and rivalry came to a head yesterday as Wednesday beat United 1-0 in a fiercely contested top-of-the table clash - with fans from both sides enjoying the build-up and banter before kick-off.

Former Owls manager Jack Charlton was among the faces in the crowd who watched the blues’ victory.

In one of the biggest operations of the year, around 350 officers took to the streets around Hillsborough and the city centre for a spectacle of policing.

Steel barriers were erected to keep singing fans apart and officers in riot gear, flanked by more on horseback and on motorcycles, joined row after row of bobbies in fluorescent jackets lined up like soldiers on parade.

Only nine arrests were made by 5.30pm yesterday - two before the game for minor assault and public order, four during the game for pitch invasion, and three after the match in connection with an assault near Eyre Street in the city centre.

A tram carrying fans to the game also came under attack before the game, when it pulled up outside The Rawson Springs pub in Hillsborough.

A handful of fans were ejected from the ground after Wednesday opened up the score 73 minutes in what proved to be the winning goal. Among those thrown out was Leighton Garner, aged 25, from Hillsborough, who said he was disappointed not to have been able to celebrate at the final whistle.

“It was a brilliant game - I was disappointed to have been kicked out but I enjoyed celebrating when the goal went in,” he said.

“I have blue blood, I am a massive fan, so this win means everything. To have 36,000 fans in Hillsborough was amazing.”

Ann Pace, 63, her husband Roger, 62, from Crosspool, enjoyed celebrating their team’s win outside the ground with granddaughter Melissa Smith, nine.

“I have been a season ticket holder since the mid 50s - you can’t beat the feeling of winning a derby,” said Ann.

The derby was also a family day out for Wednesday fan Jackie Scott, 41, who took her sons George, Harry and Oliver to the game.

“I have been a season ticket holder for 32 years and the kids have been coming since they were knee-high - this game can only be described as massive. It could shape the rest of our season,” said Jackie.

Disappointed Blades fans said their team played well in the first half, but failed to impress in the second.

Richard Suckley, 46, from Treeton, said: “It wasn’t an entertaining game and, to be honest, for 36,000 fans I thought the atmosphere was poor.”

But Blades Kelly Wake, and Gemma Palmer, both 31 and from Wybourn, said the game lived up to its reputation - despite their tram being pelted with missiles in Hillsborough as they made their way to the ground.

Kelly said: “There was a brilliant atmosphere all day, from the minute we got to the city centre - we loved the day.”