Sheffield Wednesday spoilsports ruined Portsmouth promotion party - 18-and-a-half years later they're back

Sheffield Wednesday denied Pompey promotion the last time they ventured to Fratton Park – only to suffer relegation nine days later.

Monday, 6th December 2021, 1:00 pm

As for Harry Redknapp’s troops, despite the shock setback, thankfully they still reached the Premier League within 72 hours.

It has been more than 18-and-a-half years since the most recent encounter between the teams, something of a surprising statistic.

Nonetheless, Darren Moore’s eighth-placed side venture to the south coast on Tuesday evening for the first occasion since April 2003.

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Back then, Blues goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu was aged 13 months, while Arsenal loanee Miguel Azeez had been born just six months earlier.

Still, it was a fixture which was supposed to signal the Pompey promotion party.

Requiring victory to seal a Premier League place, the Division One leaders faced a team rooted to the bottom of the table, clutching a single away win all season.

Certainly many of the Fratton faithful among a crowd of 19,524 anticipated a formality, particularly having taken a 20th-minute lead.

Linvoy Primus, Hayden Foxe and Nigel Quashie celebrate Lee Bradbury's opener against Sheffield Wednesday when the sides last met in April 2003. Picture: Mick Young

By a quirk of fate, it was netted by Lee Bradbury, back in Pompey’s side having returned from a loan spell the previous week at – yes, Sheffield Wednesday.

Following injuries to Vincent Pericard and Yakubu, Redknapp turned to Bradbury, who had netted three times in eight games during a productive second loan spell at Hillsborough.

He buried Svetoslav Todorov’s deflected cross from close range and, up until 14 minutes from time, it appeared that would secure a top-flight return.

Then, on 76 minutes, Ashley Westwood, who would later have a Fratton Park stint as assistant manager to Michael Appleton, levelled.

Tim Sherwood takes a tumble after being tackled by Sheffield Wednesday's Brian Barry-Murphy when the sides last met in April 2003. Picture: Matthew Fearn

Worse was to come, however.

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In stoppage time, Gianluca Festa’s attempted short free-kick ended up releasing the Owls’ Michael Reddy, who drew Shaka Hislop before netting the winner.

The moment stunned Fratton Park – and the promotion festivities had to be put on hold.

Still, 72 hours later, Todorov’s finish finally earned Pompey the three points they required in a 1-0 win over Burnley on an emotional Fratton Park evening.

Skipper Paul Merson and Co would go on to claim the Division One title ahead of Leicester City to accompany their promotion.

The Owls, however, were unable to take advantage of the unexpected lifeline and, following two subsequent draws, were relegated nine days later.

Chris Turner’s men eventually finished 22nd in the table, joining Brighton and Grimsby in dropping out of the division.

As for Bradbury, that Wednesday clash would generate his 46th and final Pompey goal, going on to make two further appearances before departing Fratton Park in March 2004.

The Blues would go on to remain in the Premier League for seven seasons, during which they finished eighth in 2007-08, won the 2008 FA Cup, reached the 2010 FA Cup final and competed in Europe for the first time in the club’s history.

Yet, despite the eventual plummet down the leagues, they have somehow avoided Sheffield Wednesday – until tomorrow night.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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