A SHOCKING head clash has led to the abandonment of Saturday's National Premier Leagues Victoria round 18 match between Ballarat Red Devils and Pascoe Vale.
Officials called time late in the second-half after Pascoe Vale striker Luca Santilli was knocked unconscious after a heavy collision with Shaun Romein in the 67th minute at Morshead Park.
Well over 20 minutes had elapsed by the time the paramedics had arrived, prompting referee Bruno D'Aniello to signify a premature end to proceedings.
At the time, the home side was leading 2-0 and looking a near certainty to claim it's biggest scalp for the season.
Santilli's injury compounded a suspected broken leg to Vale keeper Stefaan Sardelic after a forceful contest with Ballarat's Liam Harding just 10 minutes prior.
Considerable time was lost between the two incidents, both of which required the respective players to be stretchered off.
A specific outcome is yet to be released, but it is understood that the completed referee report will dictate the match be replayed at a later date.
The early cancellation was met with raw emotion from both camps, culminating in a verbal stoush between Pascoe Vale coach Vitale Ferrante and Red Devils officials just moments after time was called.
The NPL 2014 Rules of Competition document dictates that 80 per cent or more of 'normal' game time has to be played in order for the current result to stand.
The abandonment, should it be upheld by the ensuing report, effectively means that the Red Devils came within minutes of securing three much-needed points.
Ferrante believed the cancellation of the match was the right decision, but also said it was a torrid day for the club
"From a Pascoe Vale point of view it's not great and it's a shame that the game couldn't finish," he said post-match.
"It was a physical affair, no doubt about it (but) I don't think the physical nature of the game contributed to the two injuries.
"Our team couldn't have continued playing with what had unfolded and I'm sure if the game had been 0-0, Ballarat would have been in the same boat.
"But if I was in Ballarat, of course I would have wanted it continue - I don't begrudge that at all."
Ferrante also hinted post match that Santilli could have suffered a broken wrist in the collision.
Meanwhile, Red Devils player manager James Robinson was adamant the safety of Santilli had to come before any NPLV points.
"We were leading comfortably, but when a player's down you've just got to do what's right for the player.
"At the end of the day we were doing really well, we were at 2-0 comfortably (but) accidents happen, a boy was injured and he needed to seek medical attention.
"You can take positives out of negatives, but all that was positive - we had them on the back ropes."
"Once the report comes in and everything else... Three points is always the end result that you're looking for," Robinson replied when asked if he was comfortable with the end result.