TWO football fans have admitted attacking a steward during Saints’ clash with Premier League giants Chelsea.

Trouble erupted during the New Year’s Day match after a blue flare was thrown from the away end on to the pitch, Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard.

But the situation quickly escalated into a brawl after ground worker David Chan tried to intervene and was then assaulted by fans Joseph Ridgeway and Mathew Wilson.

CCTV footage seized by police showed the two Chelsea fans, one of whom lives in Southampton, involved in the fracas, the court was told.

Magistrates heard how Ridgeway struggled with Mr Chan, pushing him and kneeing him in the leg. It was something the 23-year-old, who is studying landscape management at university, didn’t remember doing.

Wilson, 33, of North East Road, Sholing, was also seen pushing and pulling Mr Chan.

Prosecutor Charles Nightingale told the court that the incident was triggered by the throwing of a blue flare by others among the Chelsea fans.

Both men pleaded guilty to assault when they appeared in court yesterday.

Sunyana Sharma, mitigating, said the pair accepted that what they had done was unacceptable and had shown remorse.

She told the court that the men were season ticket holders who have travelled to games abroad and in the UK and have been attending matches since they were children.

She added that both were of good character and were not “your common criminals”.

She said: “These actions by them are beyond out of character – they are surprised at how they behaved.

“It’s unfortunate the flare was thrown the way it was because it happened in their area – if it hadn’t there probably would have been no action with the stewards whatsoever.”

Magistrates adjourned the case for sentencing in May when a decision will be made about whether Ridgeway, of Barmouth Road, London, and Wilson should both be served with football banning orders.

l Two other Chelsea fans have also appeared in court accused of having a flare at the ground during the same match.

Kieran Allen, 24, of Barmouth Road, London, and Russell Huwes, 26, a self-employed electrician of Stroud Road, London, both pleaded not guilty when they appeared at Southampton Magistrates’ Court yesterday to a charge of possessing a firework in a designated sports ground. They were given conditional bail and will stand trial on April 25.