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Quinn apology to Harper over pitch invasion

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn apologised personally to Steve Harper after the Newcastle goalkeeper was pushed to the ground by a pitch invader following Asamoah Gyan's stoppage-time equaliser, an unsavoury incident which will be looked into by the Football Association.

The former Ireland international spoke to Harper in the Newcastle dressing-room to express regret over the fan's actions.

The FA will study referee Howard Webb's match report regarding the incident, which marred a dramatic denouement in the 144th Tyne-Wear derby as Gyan's 94th-minute goal cancelled out Kevin Nolan's 52nd-minute opener.

A young Sunderland fan was led away by stewards after being picked out of the crowd by former police officer Webb and taken into police custody, as rivalry between the opposing supporters erupted, with seats used as missiles.

Police reported last night that 24 arrests were made before, during and immediately after the match .

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce was withering in his condemnation of the culprit, whose actions were reminiscent of a fan who ran on to the field to goad then Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given following the decisive goal in a 2-1 home win two seasons ago.

"I just saw Steve Harper on the floor and I didn't see what happened," Bruce said. "I'd like to say well done to the Sunderland fans who gave the kid up -- and he is a kid -- he's in police custody as we speak.

"We love the football and the passion but we don't need to see any scenes like that. I hope they ban him for a long time.

"I can't understand what goes through his mind, why the hell he's got to come onto the pitch and confront Harper baffles me."

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew emerged as the post-match diplomat as he played down the incident.

"When you get a last-minute goal in a derby there'll be an over-reaction from everybody and what happened with that fan that shouldn't have happened," Pardew said.

"He pushed him in the back but I don't think there was anything malicious in it. On first sight it's an ugly incident but I don't think it was that bad, there was no punch thrown."

Pardew said the draw "felt like a defeat" and understandably so because his team had comprehensively outplayed a Sunderland side who were gunning for revenge after their 5-1 defeat at St James' Park last October.

Joey Barton, who pressed his case for an England recall, set the tone for an outstanding performance in the third minute when he sent Shola Ameobi through but the striker rolled a left-footed shot inches wide.


Sunderland threatened to make the most of their lucky escape but, after expertly turning Fabricio Coloccini, Darren Bent thumped a shot straight at Harper, who then denied Steed Malbranque and Ahmed Elmohamady as Sunderland struggled to gain the upper hand.

Another chance came and went for Bent after half-time and then Nolan, who scored a hat-trick the last time these neighbours met, exploited the let-off when he struck again in the 52nd minute -- back-heeling past Craig Gordon from close range after Ameobi rose above Anton Ferdinand to win Barton's corner.

Edgy Sunderland threatened to fall apart following the goal, playing to their opponents' strengths by repeatedly hoofing long balls that were easily dealt with. It was depressing stuff for Sunderland supporters.

Their side needed a bit of luck and that's what they got in the 94th minute when Phil Bardsley set his sights on goal in a frenetic finale. Harper failed to hold his shot and the ball bounced in off Gyan.

"I wanted to get the ball with my head but it was going too fast for me so I had to use my chest. It was a bit lucky, but it counts," Gyan said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent