Just when English non-league side Droylsden thought they had won their epic FA Cup tie against Chesterfield at the fourth time of asking, the victory was put in jeopardy by their fielding of an ineligible player.
Sean Newton scored twice on Tuesday as the Manchester side beat League Two Chesterfield 2-1 and secured, or so they thought, a third round tie against Ipswich Town, who play in the second-tier Championship.
But it emerged that 20-year-old defender Newton had collected his fifth booking of the season on Dec. 9.
According to English Football Association (FA) regulations, that meant he was suspended for one match, a ban which should have ruled him out on Tuesday.
An FA statement issued on Wednesday said: “Droylsden were informed of the suspension on Dec. 10, 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.”
The statement added the FA Cup committee hearing would examine the matter on Monday, in order to resolve it before the third round tie against Ipswich on Jan. 3 and that all three clubs were being kept informed of developments.
However, given the difficulties in arranging yet another match during the already congested holiday fixture schedule, Droylsden now face the very real prospect of being thrown out of the FA Cup.
An unusual exit would be wholly in keeping with the rest of a tie destined for a place in FA Cup folklore.
Last week Chesterfield were leading 2-0 thanks to goals from Jack Lester and Darren Currie when the match was abandoned with less than 20 minutes to play after the floodlights at Droylsden’s ground went out.
The original encounter was abandoned at half-time due to fog with Droylsden, two divisions below their Midlands opponents, leading 1-0.
But their first match was overshadowed by the bizarre events 12 minutes from time in the second encounter, at Chesterfield’s Saltergate ground.
That game was all square at 1-1 in the 78th minute when Droylsden put the ball into touch deliberately following an injury to Chesterfield’s Carl Lamb.
But, after Lamb got back on his feet, the ball was thrown to Jack Lester who, instead of just passing back to the Droylsden goalkeeper, as is the convention in such circumstances, lobbed Craig Mawson for a goal.
Chaotic scenes ensued with rival players squaring up to one another and stewards having to intervene to prevent a confrontation between the rival benches on the touchline.
However, when the game got underway again Chesterfield, seemingly embarrassed by Lester’s goal, allowed Droylsden’s Steve Halford to run through unopposed from the kick-off to make it 2-2, which is how the match ended.