Fans come to blows with players in an angry bust-up after Hartlepool beat Torquay in the National League playoff final on Sunday afternoon.
In a hugely dramatic encounter, Luke Armstrong gave Hartlepool a first-half lead in the 35th minute by firing a powerful shot in off the crossbar.
But deep into injury time Torquay’s Brazilian goalkeeper Lucas Covolan sensationally equalised with a brilliant header to give the Gulls hope.
There was no breakthrough in extra time, but the shoot-out saw further drama as both sides missed their first two penalties each.
It eventually went to sudden death, and Torquay’s Matt Buse missed the decisive spot-kick to prompt a mass pitch invasion from joyous Hartlepool fans, who were celebrating their club returning to the EFL for the first time since their relegation from League Two in 2017.
Unfortunately some went overboard, and could be seen winding up a number of Gulls players, who hit back angrily and had to be separated by security.
On loan Sunderland forward Benji Kimpioka was among those involved in confrontations, and he was filmed furiously throwing an object towards somebody who seemed to have provoked him.
There were also reports of both sets of supporters launching bottles at each other, and stewards had to form a cordon to keep them apart.
It was a sour end to what had been a thrilling game, which around 6,000 spectators were permitted to attend at Bristol City’s stadium.
— Alfie (@alfietucker12) June 20, 2021
There were a number of tannoy announcement urging fans to get off the pitch after the penalty shoot-out, but it had little effect as hundreds stayed on to celebrate wildly.
Hartlepool join National League winners Sutton United in winning promotion to League Two, and will no doubt be delighted to have escaped non-league football after four years.
Getting nasty at Ashton Gate as Hartlepool United fans invade the pitch. Some Torquay players were involved in confrontations. Both sets of supporters throwing bottles at each other. A sour end to a great final pic.twitter.com/03PWX1ZUew
— The Non-League Paper (@NonLeaguePaper) June 20, 2021
— Josh Goodman (@jgoodmanonline) June 20, 2021
Speaking after his heroics in the shoot-out, Hartlepool ‘keeper Brad James said: “A rollercoaster of emotions. We thought it was gone. But the lads never gave up and worked so hard.
“A credit to these lads, they dug me out for that last goal. If I stayed [on my line] I’d have saved it. If we lost, I wouldn’t have slept for a week.”
Their captain Nicky Featherstone added: “I have been here seven years and it’s been a real struggle at times – I’ve had three owners and eight managers.
“To be among the squad that was relegated and then to be part of the squad that has got the club back to where it belongs is massive personally for me.”
HARTLEPOOL ARE PROMOTED BACK TO THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE! 🙌
🔥 A game that had everything
🤯 A penalty shoot-out that had everything
😵 Wow… Just wow.
Twitter users reacted after seeing fans come to blows with players in the angry bust-up after Hartlepool beat Torquay…
@Fletcher1993: These BT Pundits are fuming Hartlepool won you can hear it in their voices. Criticising the fans for celebrating man 🤦🏻♂️
@nickripp: Digraceful scenes on pitch at Ashton Gate where fans confronted players. We’ve seen this there before yet only 6k inside the ground. Even the run down Mem is better policed, or is it a problem with the stadium itself? It seems too easy for fans to get on playing surface #utg
@JamesHart6WHU: Hartlepool as a team and fan base an absolute disgrace. Only one side played to win that. Hartlepool fans on the pitch straight over to the Torquay end throwing bottles. Embarrassing for the football league
@HatterSteely: Proper grim from Hartlepool fans, bunch of scrotes
@Nwrighty18: Hartlepool fans being cunts, imagine my shock,
@Ronan_Brown27: How? Let them have their moment. Everyone is quick to judge but would be different if it was their team in this position.
@leccymansteve: You’re asked not to go on the pitch, don’t go on the pitch and spoil it for those who behave, celebrate with the rest of your fans rather than intimidating opposition players and thinking you’re hard going toward the opposition fans.
@gmc_63: Not really a surprise if you know anything about Hartlepool, obnoxious fans, obnoxious town.
@ProperFoot: What @TUFC1899 players had to put up with from some @Official_HUFC fans is unacceptable.Some serious allegations been made & yet again a club with form will be subject to investigation.A player should be able to leave the pitch after a tough loss without thugs in their face.
@GuyWood_: Both sides should immediately be expelled from the competition and the next highest ranked side promoted 👍
@liamb0117: Torquay are a fucking grim fanbase
@Ryanlancaster07: Wouldn’t expect anything less from Torquay fans
@Sgtbstard: Kick em out the league
@ShayChrister: Love it benj
@AdderPoolie: Watching Hartlepool fans rush the pitch to hug players, after winning National League play off final made me smile so much, they know this bollocks is over, no Indian Variant in Bristol #COVID19 #HARvTOR #EnoughIsEnough #TakeOffYourMask
@callum1512_: Also what happened with kimpioka at the end? Looked like a Hartlepool fan did something to him
@_JakeC91: He’s went from celebrating a cup win, he didn’t take part in – to throwing water bottles at fans in a play off final 😂😂😂
@MikeyCowie1999: My winger #SAFC
@RyanC2408: Love that from u @BenjiKimpioka
@safcianpeterlee: Wish he was as accurate when kicking a football
@mattymillfield: We knew he was mental by the way he plays football this just confirms it 😂
@iain_lane: constitutes an unconditional start in the SAFC first team for three year that.
Anyone else see the Torquay player throwing a water bottle at a hartlepool fan 😂 pic.twitter.com/4hPHDoND3b
— Loader (@mattloader12) June 20, 2021
— K-Ci Rennicks 🏴 (@KRennicks19) June 20, 2021
Gary Johnson to him because he couldn’t hit the target.. pic.twitter.com/fRxGSAPdRR
— ᎡᎪY (@gammaray156) June 20, 2021
That’s what I was thinking, I assume a Hartlepool fans said something to him
— Samual Mykola 🏴 (@SamualMykola) June 20, 2021
@eelsnikta: Yep I saw it, hope he gets reprimanded by the National League 😂😂😂
@MarkHep10289: Still can’t hit target 😩😂
@Adam_Hooper10: Those poor mackems don’t take losing the play offs very well do they 😂😂
@LBaxterrr: Some boy x
@newmantaz: Prob a mag poolie
@pjennings73pj: Obviously something been said to him.
@CarEnth48296881: Fucking hell hes out some muscle on hasnt he good to see
@whmltn: Still missed the target off you pop daft cunt
@jackmc20: Got pocketed from timi up the pools