Ferguson's pitch fears

HEAD groundsman Alan Ferguson fears the poor state of the Portman Road pitch could defeat Ipswich Town's bid for promotion.He said today as he prepared the ground for tonight's reserve fixture against Derby County: "I felt for our players on Saturday against Grimsby.

By Elvin King

HEAD groundsman Alan Ferguson fears the poor state of the Portman Road pitch could defeat Ipswich Town's bid for promotion.

He said today as he prepared the ground for tonight's reserve fixture against Derby County: "I felt for our players on Saturday against Grimsby.

"We have players who like to play along the ground and the club's success over recent years has been built on a solid passing game.


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"The ball was hitting a bobble on Saturday – and was ending up in the stand. It is a big frustration for me – but I am confident I can get it right."

Award-winning Ferguson confirms that financial constraints have nothing to do with current pitch conditions – which manager Joe Royle described on Saturday as "crumbly".

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The boss attaches no blame to Ferguson and his team and two main factors have brought about the deterioration since Christmas.

The first is the building of the South Stand, the second is adverse weather

conditions – heavy rainfall during the Millwall game on New Year's Day and subsequent frosts.

"We anticipated trouble when the South Stand was extended," added Ferguson. "We know what the problem is and we need more glass panels in the roof of that stand and also in the Britannia Stand.

"We have organised independent tests and at that end of the pitch there is a

hostile growing environment."

Ferguson is justly proud that no first team games have been postponed at Portman Road over the last two months despite bad weather.

"There was around a quarter of an inch rain that fell during the Millwall game alone," he added. "We managed to stage three home matches around that period – and brought in 70,000 fans."

Ferguson praises the all-over cover that protects not only against frost but also against rain. "Without it there would be no pitch," he said.

"It has been a Godsend. Premiership pitches are mainly in good shape but most top clubs only stage first team games.

"We have had 11 matches over the last seven weeks. I understand young players need to find their feet at Portman Road in the second team and have no problem with that. But it does add to the problem."

Ferguson, now in his seventh year with Ipswich and the man who has

masterminded superb playing surfaces at the club's training grounds, went on: "Tomorrow morning we still seed and then nurse the main pitch. There will be 11 days to the next match – and I aim to make the most of this break.

"And during the summer we plan to peel ten millimetres off the top and put in 200 tonnes of sand plus some stronger grass.

"With improved lighting – the winter sun only reaches a section of the pitch at the moment – and our summer work, I am confident the pitch will be back in tip-top shape for next season."

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