Sheffield United Retro: Remembering Phil Jagielka in goal, the mass brawl and Del Geary’s 30-yard stunner as Blades win at Millwall

Phil Jagielka took over in goal after keeper Paddy Kenny was sent off after an incident in the tunnel at half time.
Phil Jagielka took over in goal after keeper Paddy Kenny was sent off after an incident in the tunnel at half time.

Any trip to The Den is rarely a welcoming experience… but England defender Phil Jagielka will surely look back fondly on a game against Millwall 14 years ago.

As Chris Wilder’s Blades prepare to make the trip south this weekend, we look back to early December 2004 when Neil Warnock’s side won at Millwall for the first time in 20 years.

But remarkably, they did so without a recognised goalkeeper between the sticks for the second half – and courtesy of a stunning strike from diminutive right-back, Derek Geary. It was the first and last goal he would score for the Blades.

The flashpoint of the game came at half-time, when a confrontation involving serial offender Kevin Muscat and United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny sparked a mass tunnel brawl. Referee Iain Williamson sent both players off, leaving Warnock no choice but to put Jagielka in goal, and his mood wasn’t improved when Mark Phillips put Millwall ahead.

Warnock threw on Andy Liddell, who scored the equaliser within two minutes of being on the pitch, and Geary netted the winner for the Blades, volleying home from around 30 yards.

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“It was probably the craziest game of football I was ever involved in. I’m not sure anything else came close," remembers Geary.

“I’ll never forget it for a whole host of different reasons but mostly because it was when I scored for the first and last time.”

On the brawl, Geary added: “I remember walking off at the break and then, just in front of the dressing rooms, there was this mass of bodies.

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Derek Geary is congratulated by manager Neil Warnock at the end after scoring the winner against Millwall.

Derek Geary is congratulated by manager Neil Warnock at the end after scoring the winner against Millwall.

“It was carnage everywhere you looked.

“Danny Cadamarteri, who was on the bench for us, came in and told the gaffer Muscat had been given a red card. Well, Neil thought that was it. He was telling-us ‘You’ve got ‘em now.’ Or at least he was until the ref knocked on the door and said Paddy would be going as well.

“I think it’s fair to say his whole mood changed then, because we didn’t have a ‘keeper on the bench. “But Jags was a really good shot-stopper and did well. We were drawing and then, towards the end, the ball came to me and I just smashed it from 30-odd yards out. If you are only going to score once then it’s best to make it memorable I suppose.”
The Millwall game features heavily in a documentary on Warnock (warning, features strong language).

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Geary scores the winning goal at Millwall

Geary scores the winning goal at Millwall