Spireites v Boro 20th anniversary: Kevin Davies still angry over referee blunder

Chesterfield v Middlesborough 1997 FA cup semi final.
Chesterfield v Middlesborough 1997 FA cup semi final.
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Kevin Davies says the referee’s decision not to award a goal for Chesterfield against Middlesbrough in the 1997 FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford remains sore to this day - almost 20 years on.

Leading 2-1 thanks to goals from Andy Morris and Sean Dyche, the Spireites looked to be on their way to pulling off a major cup upset when Jon Howard’s shot hit the underside of the bar and bounced over the line.

Chesterfield v Middlesborough 1997 FA cup semi final.

Chesterfield v Middlesborough 1997 FA cup semi final.

The linesman on the near side, Alan Sheffield, signalled a goal should be awarded but referee on the day, David Elleray, waved away his and Chesterfield’s appeals. The tie went to extra-time and was drawn 3-3.

Jamie Hewitt scored in the final moments of the game to set up a replay nine days later at Hillsborough, which Boro would go on to win 3-0 to book a place at Wembley. They lost 2-0 to Chelsea in the final.

And, although admitting the cup run was one of the highlights of his career, Davies, who would go on to play for Southampton, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Preston, still wonders what might have been.

He said: “It was hard to put the Middlesbrough game into words. We had a fantastic group of players and a brilliant manager in John Duncan. I played in the first team at the age of 16, very young, and playing in that cup run was something I’ll never forget.

“I was suspended for the quarter-finals and, funnily enough, the player that came in and replaced me scored to get us to the semi-final so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. It’s a trophy I have great fondness for and I remember going to Old Trafford, with fans in hysteria and shops dressed in our colours, so it was an amazing experience.

“It’s still sore because of the final outcome of the game, hanging on a refereeing decision, so we could have been in the final but fans still talk about that game until this day so it’s great to have given them something they’ll cherish forever.”

And added: “It was one of my best moments in football. That run leading to that semi-final, just coming up to 20 years ago, was a special experience.

“We’ve seen it happen with Sutton and Lincoln that you can go on such runs and the FA Cup provides such special moments and we created one at the club at that time.

“Bolton were flying when we played them and we wanted to put on the best performance we could for the fans. I scored my first and only hat-trick and it pops up again when you see FA Cup highlights from over the years.”