Droylsden and out

I ASKED last week if there were to be any more twists in the Droylsden-Chesterfield FA Cup marathon. Silly question. Droylsden finally won the tie last night – but now they are pretty much certain to be thrown out of the competition.

Sean Newton, who scored both goals in last night’s rearranged replay, shouldn’t have been playing. He picked up his fifth booking of the season on December 9, and under FA rules should have served a one-match ban last night.

The FA will meet next Monday to decide what punishment to hand out. But unfortunately for Droylsden, all recent precedent points to explusion from the competition.

Bury were thrown out of the cup two seasons ago for fielding an ineligible player, Stephen Turnbull, in a second-round replay victory at Chester. Turnbull, who was on loan from Hartlepool, had not been registered in time to play for Bury in round two. Chester were reinstated.

In a weird parallel, Chester’s third-round tie (following their reinstatement) was against Ipswich – who will also be the opponents for Chesterfield or Droylsden this time.

When, as seems certain, Droylsden are thrown out, I’m sure they will point to the example of West Ham, who got away with a fine (and no points deduction) when they were found guilty of illegally fielding Carlos Tevez in the closing matches of the 2006/07 season. Tevez, of course, scored the goal that kept them in the Premier League as Sheffield United took the drop instead.

But the fact that Sheffield United’s bid for £25million compensation from the Hammers is likely to be successful suggests that the original decision not to dock points was the wrong one. It also suggests that Chesterfield would have a decent legal case if they were not reinstated.

The killer argument against Droylsden, as far as I’m concerned, comes from an FA Cup tie involving North West Counties League side Blackpool Mechanics a couple of seasons ago.

In August 2006, Mechanics fielded the ineligible Craig Worthington in their 2-0 extra preliminary round win over Armthorpe Welfare. Worthington, like Droylsden’s Newton, should have been serving a suspension. The precedent is there, and – sadly for Droylsden – leaves no room for manoeuvre.

Droylsden’s explusion will, surely, be the final twist in a remarkable tie, which was abandoned twice (once due to fog, once due to floodlight failure). In addition, there was the ‘gift goal’ incident in the 2-2 draw at Saltergate which led to last night’s replay.

Assuming they are chucked out, Droylsden will forfeit the £30,000 in prize money they would have been due for winning last night’s tie. Even allowing for the fortunes that chairman-manager Dave Pace has pumped into the club over the years, that is a huge amount of money for a Blue Square North club to lose.

The only consolation is that the film rights to one of the most bizarre ties in the FA Cup’s history must surely be worth something to them.

It’s probably not the cheeriest way to sign off for Christmas, but sport can’t do happy endings for everyone. Perhaps that’s what keeps us all hooked.

I’d like to thank everyone who has read, linked to and commented on this blog over the last year. I hope you all have a great Christmas. I will return with the Gubbometer update after the Boxing Day football fixtures.

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