Non-league Droylsden’s FA Cup dream appears to be over after the club were thrown out of the competition for fielding an ineligible player in their 2-1 defeat of League Two Chesterfield.
Droyslden have said they plan to appeal but, if upheld, this expulsion brings to an end a month-long tie between the two sides that’s seen controversial goals, a mass brawl and two abandonments and a plot that simply couldn’t be made up.
A tale of four games
When Chesterfield were drawn at home to Blue Square North Side Droylsden, who’d already put out Darlington, in the second round there was little indication of the epic encounter that was to follow.
The first game was abandoned at half-tim due to heavy fog, with Droylsden leading one-nil. Although the weather had caused several other fixtures to be called off, the Bloods’ outspoken manager-owner Dave Pace was fuming with the decision and let rip with a Kinnear-esque rant by saying: “If it had been the other way round and Chesterfield were winning I don’t think it would have been called off. But I suppose the referee has got assessors to satisfy and other things like that.”
But more was to follow in the rearranged game with a controversial goal that sparked a mass protest on the pitch. Droylsden sportingly put the ball out of play for a Chesterfield injury but, from the resulting throw in, the Spireites’ Jack Lester managed to accidentally lob the Droyslden keeper when attempting to pass the ball back.
At this point all hell broke loose on the pitch and, after several minutes of chaos, Chesterfield sportingly allowed their opponents to walk the ball into the net and bring the scores level to 2-2. With no side able to break the deadlock, the teams headed back to the Butchers’ Arms for a replay.
This time Chesterfield made no mistake and took the game to their opponents, racing into a two goal lead. But with three-quarters of the match gone, the Butchers’ Arms fell victim to what has been a common affliction in December: floodlight failure.
This time it was Chesterfield’s time to get angry amidst conspiracy theories about the convenient timing of the floodlight failurem but Pace was quick to quash these pointing out that the power had been steadily going out in other areas of the ground during the course of the evening.
And last Tuesday the tie appeared to have been settled for good when Droylsden defender Sean Newton bagged a brace to give the Bloods a two-one victory and finally set up a potentially money-spinning tie with Championship side Ipswich Town.
Check your paperwork
Immediately after the final whistle, Chesterfield were in contact with the FA over the Bloods’ goalscoring hero. Newton had picked up a fifth booking of the season in the 2-2 draw between the two sides and, according the the FA, was suspended for one game from December 23rd – the day of the rearranged tie between the two clubs.
Droylsden then faxed confirmation to the FA of Newton’s suspension and stated that he would serve it against Vauxhall Motors on Boxing Day. At this stage, the aborted replay had yet to take place and there was no game scheduled for the 23rd, although that changed once the match was abandoned.
While the FA have proved somewhat idiosyncratic with their rule-making in recent years, it’s hard to argue with the ruling that Newton was ineligible for the game, although Droylsden have done their best claiming they’d already agreed on a game for his suspension.
However, although it may seem like sour grapes from Chesterfield, the date that Newton’s suspension came into play from had been known for over a week. Had this been a rearranged league fixture, the Bloods would have probably been docked three points.
Droylsden fans and Pace are, predictably, fuming with the chairman-manager, who has ploughed several hundred thousand pounds of his own money into the club, threatening to walk away from football. Given Pace’s track record of controversial statements, this seems more like a hollow threat that would achieve nothing as opposed to a moral stance.
Had Newton just played a few minutes of a substitute, it would be a lot easier to sympathise with the Manchester club. But it’s also hard to feel too much sympathy towards Chesterfield either as, by rights, Droylsden were a team they could and should have dispatched (and some may argue were minutes away from doing so before the floodlight failure) long before it got to this stage.
Pace will most likely have already submitted his appeal by the time you read this. If he does the whole saga will finally come to an end at a hearing on New Year’s Eve, although it’s difficult to see exactly what arguments and laws Droyslden will use to try and win the appeal.
The last club to be thrown out of the FA Cup for this offence were Bury, two seasons ago, when they fielded an ineligible loan player. Coincidentally, the team they were due to play were the opponents of this brouhaha – Ipswich Town. Given Chesterfield’s FA Cup history, they’ll be hoping their third round tie can be settled in one uncontroversial game.