When The Lights Went Out (Revisited)
It’s reassuring to come back from the Christmas break to find that the fallout from the much aborted FA Cup match between Droylsden and Chesterfield is still rumbling on. After the first match was abandoned due to fog with Droylsden leading by a single goal, the two sides drew 2-2 at Saltergate. Chesterfield were then winning the replay 2-0 when an electrician fixing the electricity tripped the floodlights out with eighteen minutes left to play. At the fourth attempt, the Droylsden beat their Football League opposition 2-1 to book, as they thought, a place in the Third Round of the competition and a trip to Suffolk to play Ipswich Town.
There was much gnashing of teeth in Derbyshire over this result. In the third match between the sides, Chesterfield were just three minutes from the point at which the referee would normally have awarded the result to them anyway when the lights went out, and dark rumours started to circulate that this hadn’t been the accident that it seemed. Even after all of this, there is again a strong chance that Droylsden will not be allowed to take their place in the Third Round of the competition, this time in an argument over an ineligible player.
Sean Newton had been the hero of the final match between the two sides, scoring both goals to win it for Droylsden. After the match, however, Chesterfield lodged a complaint with the Football Association, claiming that Newton had picked up his fifth yellow card of the season on December 9th. Droylsden state that they sent a fax to the Football Association confirming that he would serve his ban on December 26th but, obviously, clubs don’t get to choose when a player serves their suspension. The public statement from the FA, who will meet tomorrow to make a formal decision over what to do about this, doesn’t bode well for them:
The enquiries relate to defender Sean Newton, who picked up his fifth booking of the season on 9 December. According to the FA’s disciplinary regulations, he was therefore suspended for one match from Tuesday 23 December. Droylsden were informed of the suspension on 10 December, which was then confirmed by the club four days later. Clubs are aware that they are responsible for checking that their players are eligible to play in any given match.
It’s difficult to get away from the belief that there would be some sort of poetic justice being seen out here. Certainly, if the FA suspect that there was any funny business going on at the last abandoned match between the two clubs, this would be the perfect opprtunity to mete out their own idiosyncratic form of justice. It is also difficult to get away from the fact that Newton can hardly be described as a peripheral figure in the match. Had he been a substitute that had come on for the last couple of minutes and not had a kick of the ball the matter might be a different one, but the fact of the matter is that he scored both goals for Droylsden. The FA has occasionally made strange decisions regarding this sort of thing in the past but, on this occasion, it’s difficult to see how Droylsden will be able to talk their way out of this little mess.