THERE’S a wonderful story (apparently true) of a cinema in Edinburgh that once showed Groundhog Day in a double bill with itself. Whoever came up with that idea will probably be deriving a lot of enjoyment from Droylsden’s FA Cup run.
Perhaps Bill Murray’s cynical weatherman will show up when Droylsden and Chesterfield make yet another attempt to settle their second-round tie next Tuesday. But one thing is certain: never have so many footballers been through so much for the right to play Ipswich away.
The story so far: On November 30, Droylsden were 1-0 up at Chesterfield when the match was abandoned due to fog.
Dave Pace, Droylsden chairman-manager, was so angry that he made the following statement during a TV interview: “If it had been the other way round, if they’d been 1-0 up, there’s no way on earth this game would have been called off.”
Pace’s argument that FA Cup ties can never be abandoned if Chesterfield are leading seemed to be borne of understandable frustration rather than logic. And anyway, he was to be proved wrong on that score. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.
On December 9, the two sides were locked at 1-1 in the re-arranged tie, when two extraordinary things happened.
With 12 minutes to go, Droylsden put the ball out so a player could receive treatment. When play restarted with a throw, Chesterfield striker Jack Lester lobbed in a goal rather than giving the ball back to the opposition. Pandemonium ensued.
As a result, Chesterfield boss Lee Richardson ordered his players to allow the visitors to equalise straight from the kick-off, which Steve Halford duly did.
Before last night’s third game at the Butchers Arms, Droylsden keeper Craig Mawson told the Manchester Evening News: “We’ve had just about everything in the Cup this season, so the only thing people should be surprised by tonight is if there are no surprises.”
Mawson must be psychic. Chesterfield were 2-0 up with 17 minutes to go when the floodlights failed. Match abandoned.
Pace’s reaction, as reported by the Tameside Advertiser, kind of glossed over his comments after the first abandonment, and instead focused on how his side could have gone on to win the game from two goals down.
“We were getting on top when the lights went out,” he said, “and even though we were two goals down, I wanted for us to get back out there and start playing again.”
He went on to insist that the floodlights had never failed in 12 years, and that they had only been upgraded last year. I hope, for his sake, they hold out in next week’s rearranged tie. I fear Pace may spontaneously combust otherwise.
Including the two abandonments, next Tuesday’s game will be Droylsden’s 10th in the FA Cup this season. The club have never reached the third round in their 116-year history. Pace is chasing history, but he is having to do it in the most roundabout way imaginable.
It was a fairly straightforward cup run to start with. They beat Bradford Park Avenue, Gateshead and Belper Town (after a replay) to reach the first round.
Then it got complicated.
Their first-round tie at Darlington – which ended 0-0 – had a little bit of drama, when keeper Mawson was forced off injured after colliding with a post.
But that had nothing on the replay, which was held up for 35 minutes when Darlington striker Liam Hatch suffered what appeared to be a serious neck injury. Thankfully, there was no long-term damage, and Hatch is now playing again. Droylsden came through to win 1-0, and set up that second-round tie against Chesterfield.
And then it got really complicated.
What next? Will Droylsden and Chesterfield go on playing each other endlessly while the rest of the FA Cup continues around them? Will Andie MacDowell show up on the pitch to score? Or will we get something really silly – like a winner?