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Remembering Chesterfield’s Iconic – and Heartbreaking – 1997 FA Cup Run

Chesterfield might be in the bottom half of the National League at the moment, but they are undoubtedly one of several sides in the division that have more than a few great stories to tell.

In April, the club celebrated the anniversary of arguably its biggest-ever moment in football, when it reached the semi-final of the FA Cup in 1996-97 and played a part in one of the competition’s most famous – and controversial – matches.

Low-key start

The team’s journey in the FA Cup that season started in a rather low-key fashion. As outlines, the side recorded a 1-0 victory over Bury in the first round and that was followed by a 2-0 home win against Scarborough in the second.

In an interview with FATV, former player Jamie Hewitt discussed how the then-Second Division club hoped for a glamour tie in the third round, but were drawn against a side in the same league – Bristol City. However, they navigated their way through that one and earned a fourth round tie with Bolton Wanderers. In an interesting twist of fate, Kevin Davies – who would go on to become a Bolton legend later in his career – scored a hat-trick and Chesterfield marched on.

Things went up a notch in the fifth round with then-Premier League Nottingham Forest providing the opposition, yet Chesterfield went on to win 1-0 thanks to a penalty. Another current National League side then makes an appearance in the story, with the Spireites beating Wrexham by a single goal to secure a place in the semi-final.

A cup classic

The match against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford sprung into life towards the end of the first half, when the North East team had Vladimir Kinder sent off. Chesterfield went on to take full advantage by going two goals up, with the second being scored by current Burnley manager Sean Dyche.

The world of football has changed significantly since those days, with technology undoubtedly playing a bigger part in it. Highlights are widely available on mobile devices and sites like Suomibetting have also emerged to offer odds on a range of different elements within matches. Of course, another big change has been the introduction of VAR and had it been in use back then, the outcome of the Middlesbrough match could have been a lot different.

A shot by Chesterfield’s Jonathan Howard struck the crossbar and then bounced down and out of the goal. Subsequent replays suggested the ball had crossed the line, but the officials seemingly did not see it. According to The Independent, referee David Elleray went on to suggest the ball did cross the line, but insisted that he had actually already blown for a foul before the incident. Middlesbrough then went on to go 3-2 up in extra

time, only for Jamie Hewitt to equalise in the dying moments of the game. However, there was to be no Wembley date for Chesterfield, as they lost the replay 3-0.

An incredible story

While Chesterfield’s story in the FA Cup in 1996/97 did not have a happy ending, it is one which has clearly cemented its place in the tournament’s rich and exciting history.

It is a great run to reflect on and fans of the Spireites will surely be hoping that they will get to enjoy such days again in the coming years.

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