IT was the moment of madness when ecstatic football fans wildly celebrated a goal.
A plume of blue smoke erupted in the away end at St Mary’s Stadium, and drifted across hundreds of cheering supporters.
The potentially deadly firework blazed fiercely as stewards swooped on a section of supporters.
Now two Chelsea fans who potentially endangered the lives of fellow supporters have been ordered to pay a combined £1,200.
Friends Kieran Allen and Russell Hewes, both from London, were found guilty of possessing a firework at a designated sports ground at a hearing at Southampton Magistrates’ Court.
Allen, 24, of Barmouth Road, and Hewes, 27, of Stroud Road, both denied the charge.
The men travelled to the city from London for New Year’s Day clash between Saints and Chelsea.
The court was shown CCTV footage of the moment security spotted the flare being held aloft midway through the second half.
It was moments after Fernando Torres fired Chelsea into a 60th minute lead in a match Chelsea won 3-0.
Ground staff said they saw Allen passing it to Hewes who dropped it to the ground seconds afterwards.
In a statement read by prosecutor Owen Holloway, steward Kevin Allen, said how “blue smoke was coming up” as he approached the pair.
Allen denied it was his, telling the confronting steward it had “been thrown”, the court heard.
Both men were eventually arrested and led from the stand.
Mr Holloway said: “It was clearly something that shouldn’t be taken into a football match.”
CCTV pictures showed bright lights burning several rows behind the men, which defence counsel Coles Henry claimed were “firecrackers” lit by another fan.
In mitigation Allen told the court how he felt a “burning sensation” on his foot soon after the goal.
He presumed it had come from behind and picked it up because it was “the safest way of getting it out of people’s faces”.
He denied Mr Holloway’s claims that he had picked it up to celebrate with the other fans.
Hewes, an electrician, told the court how it could have been “dangerous” to stamp out.
He grabbed it from his friend because he was concerned about a nearby child and wanted to hand it to advancing stewards.
He told the court: “The steward grabbed my hand quite tight and I dropped it.”
He claimed he was trying to calm the situation down and protest his innocence.
But magistrate Maurice Ellerker ruled their body language failed to suggest claims they were handing it to stewards He said: “We believe both defendants were celebrating with the flare.”
He added: “This was a momentary lapse of you not engaging your brain.”
Both men were fined £250, and ordered to pay £25 victim surcharge and £325 costs. Magistrates did not impose a football banning order because of the pair’s previous clean record.