Manchester United defender Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to spitting at Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse and will have his case heard on Friday night.
The 27-year-old Northern Ireland international had until 6pm to respond to the charge levelled at both men under the Football Association’s Rule E1[a] on Thursday, and disciplinary chiefs have announced that he is to fight it.
An FA statement, released via its official Twitter account, read: “Manchester United’s Jonny Evans denies FA charge in relation to incident involving Papiss Cisse.
“Independent Regulatory Commission hearing tonight, decision expected tomorrow.”
Evans’ decision is in line with a statement he released before charges were levelled insisting he would never deliberately spit at a fellow professional, a sentiment backed up by his manager Louis van Gaal.
Their determination to contest the charge is perhaps understandable with the player facing a mandatory six-game ban - the first of them Monday night’s FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal - if he is found guilty.
Evans and Cisse were charged after a panel of former elite referees unanimously agreed they both had cases to answer following an incident during Wednesday night’s clash between the clubs at St James’ Park.
The striker reacted angrily to the defender’s 38th-minute challenge on him and television replays suggested both men had spat in the direction of the other as the confrontation degenerated.
Neither match referee Anthony Taylor nor his assistants saw the incident, prompting the FA to launch an investigation.
While Evans pleaded his innocence, 29-year-old Cisse was quick to issue an apology and accept the charge and the prospect of a seven-game suspension - his will be increased because of a violent conduct charge earlier in the campaign - which all but ends his season.
If Evans fails in his bid to clear his name, he will sit out against the Gunners, the league games against Tottenham, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester City, the FA Cup semi-final if United get there, and the trip to Chelsea if they do not.
Cisse is set to miss the Magpies’ league fixtures against Everton, Arsenal, Sunderland, Liverpool, Tottenham, Swansea and Leicester, and there will only be three games remaining when he becomes available once again for West Brom’s visit to Tyneside on May 9.