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Tuesday 23rd December 2008 ko 19.45

FA Cup 2nd Round Replay

DROYLSDEN 2 (Newton 31 55p)

CHESTERFIELD 1 (Lester 35)

Lester sent off 84 (violent conduct)

Att 2,824 

Entry £5

Programme £1

On one level I knew exactly why I was at the Butchers Arms Ground in Manchester’s eastern suburbs. Leaving aside the groundhopper’s insatiable urge to collect football grounds I was happy to escape a Milton Keynes office, and the kind of job where you inwardly measure every minute you’re on duty. So to Droylsden I drove, and all because any FA Cup tie is interesting and a potential upset involving a Conference North club against a League 2 outfit looked attractive. However, if you know what had happened in the month prior to the tie you’ll know just how much of an understatement that last sentence is!

I’d been told to watch where I parked up as Droylsden is/was a rough area. Really? I can’t say I saw anything out of the ordinary, but I’ll admit this was the classic groundhopper “Get in, see the game, and get out” operation.  Whoever told me about the Butchers Arms’ environs either didn’t like Droylsden or hadn’t been to some of the UK’s more, er colourful areas. And I had a saga to get involved in.

You see there’d been 3 games in just under a month just to get to this replay. The original tie at Saltergate was abandoned at half-time due to fog with Droylsden leading one-nil. Droylsden owner-manager Dave Pace made it crystal clear that he thought if the score had been the other way round, the game would have been completed.

It needed the rearranged game to go off without incident but when Droylsden put the ball out so that an injured player could receive treatment, the resulting throw-in saw Jack Lester accidentally lob the Droylsden keeper when attempting to pass the ball back to the visitors. When the chaos was calmed, Chesterfield allowed the ball to be walked into their own net, but the game finished 2-2….

So the drama switched to the Butchers Arms, and the drama continue with another abandoned game, this time Chesterfield were leading two-nil when the floodlights failed. Cue more conspiracy theories….

So there I was watching the fourth installment of a single tie, and looking back I’m amazed the game was neither all-ticket nor a sell-out. I was a jaded bloke who simply turned up expecting to get in- that’s not an attitude I would encourage if you want to avoid disappointment!

I witnessed an incredible evening sat underneath a stuffed bird, presumably there to scare off live ones! Unquestionably the star of the show was Bloods full back Sean Newton who scored Droyslden’s two goals. Jack Lester was both hero and villain for the Spirites equalising, then being sent off late on for a stray elbow. I took picture after picture as just about everyone involved at Droylsden celebrated the win, and a money spinning tie away at Ipswich Town.

But that wasn’t the end of the drama. Chesterfield had spotted that Newton had picked up his 5th booking during the draw at Saltergate. His one game suspension was due to start on the 23rd December, ie this game’s date, but since noone expected that floodlight failure, the date was free so the expectation was that Newton would serve his ban for the Boxing Day tie against Vauxhall Motors. When the replay ended up being played before the Vauxhall Motors game Chesterfield appealed.

It was an understandable error, but it cost Droylsden their place in the 3rd Round. They were expelled from the competition and it was Chesterfield that travelled to Portman Road the next weekend, losing 3-0.

Now I can think of a few groundhoppers who wouldn’t have counted the game. Their argument would be since the game was technically expunged then I couldn’t count it. My view? So would I really claim that that I didn’t watch Sean Newton’s two goals, or Jack Lester’s dismissal or the celebrations afterwards. Mind I suspect a few with that point of view in the past may have quietly changed their mind during lockdown. You could hardly not count the larger part of season couldn’t you?