For the dreaming Spireites of Saltergate, the wildest fantasy is suddenly in sharp focus. A goal by Chris Beaumont, who cost Chesterfield all of pounds 25, from Stockport last summer, ended the romance for Wrexham yesterday and took the Second Division's 11th-placed side to within tantalising reach of the FA Cup final at Wembley.
Nearly an hour of an attritional tie had passed when Beaumont, a 31-year- old former accounts clerk from Sheffield, joined the likes of Juninho, Ravanelli and Zola in the pantheon of quarter-final heroes. Wrexham, one rung below Chesterfield in the League, had come from behind eight times during their Cup run, but finally met opponents with even greater resilience.
Chesterfield's achievement - in 131 years, England's fourth oldest club had never previously graced the sixth round - was all the more laudable since they were without their top scorer, Tony Lormor, and the coveted Kevin Davies. The manager, John Duncan, was also forced to field a trio carrying knocks, including his captain, Sean Dyche. Sadly for Wrexham, they were not lacking in heart.
Duncan, the former Tottenham and Derby striker, seemed remarkably unfazed as reporters reminded him that they were only the seventh third-grade club to reach the semi-finals and the first since Plymouth in 1984. Inside, he must have felt a sense of vindication. Even after the defeats of Bolton and Nottingham Forest, many Chesterfield fans bemoaned his alleged preference for a long-ball game.
So there was an exquisite irony about the direct methods which were to rumble Brian Flynn's men. A clearance to the 6ft 4in Andy Morris, who had given notice of his aerial threat with a second-minute header athletically saved by Andy Marriott, was flicked on for Beaumont to chase.
Deryn Brace, although ahead of the midfielder, seemed unsure whether or when to nod the ball back to his keeper. Marriott, equally uncertain of the full-back's intentions, advanced so far off his line that they nearly collided. Amid the confusion, Beaumont lobbed his second goal of the season.
Chesterfield deserved their break. After a sticky start, in which Wrexham's superior passing and movement saw them go closer to scoring, Duncan made tactical adjustments that increasingly gave them the edge.
They were thankful, none the less, for Tom Curtis's superb blocking tackle on Brian Carey as he shaped to exploit Billy Mercer's only slip in goal. Derbyshire voices screamed for a penalty when Tony Humes handled Morris's shot five minutes before half-time, but were soon filling the air with more joyous cries as Beaumont pounced.
The scorer almost added to his new-found fame, curling a 63rd-minute shot against the far post. Marriott brilliantly kept out Jonathon Howard's follow-up, and made further amends with fine saves from the same pair. Late pressure could not conjure a comparable opening for Wrexham, and the final whistle prompted delirious, disbelieving celebrations.
The unreality of it all was compounded by the sight of Tony Benn, Chesterfield's MP, beaming broadly as his constituents pledged to "keep the blue flag flying high". In the shadow of the crooked spire, the Cup's twisted logic was in overdrive.
Goal: Beaumont (58) 1-.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Mercer; Hewitt, Williams, Dyche, Jules; Perkins, Beaumont (Dunn, 9), Curtis, Howard; Morris, Holland (Gaughan, 81). Substitute not used: Lund.
Wrexham (4-4-2): Marriott; McGregor, Carey, Humes, Brace; Chalk (Bennett, 65), Hughes, Ward (Owen, 72), Russell; Connolly, Watkin. Substitute not used: Jones.
Referee: M Riley (Leeds).
Bookings: Chesterfield: Holland, Mercer. Wrexham: Brace, Ward, Bennett, Owen.
Attendance: 8,375. Man of the match: Marriott.Reuse content