SOME 29 ago one of England's top referees visited St James' Park on a cold Wednesday night to take charge of Newcastle United's FA Cup third round replay against Brighton & Hove Albion.

His name was Trelford Mills which, to Geordies of a certain age, remains a form of shorthand for Satan.

Trelford's 'offence' that evening was to disallow not one but two Newcastle goals during the dying minutes of a match the Magpies, then in what is now the Championship, would lose 1-0.

To say St James' Park went into meltdown would be something of an understatement.

When the Yorkshire official tried leaving the ground afterwards his path was blocked by a policeman who warned him: "You're not going anywhere yet mate - there's 2,000 people outside want your autograph."

Eventually a police escort was required to get him south of the River Tyne as the clock ticked round to midnight.

"It was, I have to say, a pretty poor game in the most," remembers Mills, who had also refereed Kevin Keegan's first match as a Newcastle player against QPR just five months previously.

"There wasn't really much in the way of goalmouth action except for Brighton's goal when Peter Ward wriggled through four or five challenges and knocked the ball into the net.

"Then with five minutes to go (Newcastle striker) Imre Varadi handled the ball, I blew and he went and toe-poked it into the net, so obviously I disallowed it for what I'd seen.

"A couple of minutes later Newcastle had a free-kick that was floated towards the far post. Before John (Morley, one of the linesmen) could flag I spotted Jeff Clarke plant an arm in the back of someone's neck and I blew for the foul.

"The ball then came over and everybody stood still apart from Kevin Keegan who turned it into the net and ran off doing the Mick Channon windmill style celebration with his arm.

"So there's 30-odd thousand people thinking it's a goal and I'm stood getting smaller and smaller in the six-yard area having disallowed it. When they all realised what had happened the place just went berserk."

Mills has never been allowed to forget what happened that evening. Barely a week goes by without someone reminding him about January 12, 1983, although the torrent of mail postmarked Newcastle (one envelope was simply addressed 'Trelford Mills, Barnsley') has finally dried up.

He's also something of a hero with Brighton fans as Albion, having exhausted all their luck at St James' Park, went on to reach the FA Cup final that year for the only time in the club's history.

"I do quite a bit of after-dinner speaking," adds Mills. "I was up in the North-East a couple of years ago and this guy comes over to me and says 'I've enjoyed what you've said but I'm a Newcastle supporter so I'm not going to shake your hand. I wasn't at the game but my dad was and he told me I wasn't to shake your hand'.

"In my head I know I made two correct decisions that day. I didn't for a moment wonder what people were going to say. The only unfortunate thing is that there wasn't a load of cameras there to pick them (the infringements) up, just the one main camera on the halfway line.

"If there had been then everyone could have seen what I saw - and we wouldn't still be talking about it all these years later."