Town's FA Cup tie in serious doubt

SERIOUS doubt surrounds Ipswich Town's FA Cup third round clash at Blackpool this Saturday following the Lancashire club's decision not to buy protective covers for their frost-affected pitch.

Stuart Watson

SERIOUS doubt surrounds Ipswich Town's FA Cup third round clash at Blackpool this Saturday following the Lancashire club's decision not to buy protective covers for their frost-affected pitch.

The Seasiders have seen their last two home games postponed after the referee, on both occasions, deemed frozen areas of the Bloomfield Road pitch too dangerous to play on. The main area of concern was a shaded section near the club's new South Stand and led to a 10.30am match day call-off on Monday.

Despite the Championship club missing out on the increased revenue of bumper festive crowds against West Brom and Sheffield Wednesday respectively, their chairman Karl Oyston is still refusing to pay out for pitch protection.

And with temperatures in the north west predicted to once again drop below zero on Friday night, Ipswich's trip to the seaside town is already being called into question.

It is currently not compulsory for Football League clubs to have to have pitch protection and, as a result, Blackpool decided at the start of the season that it was an expense that could be spared in order to give manager Ian Holloway extra funds in the transfer market.

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“I'm not God and I don't control the weather,” said Oyston, in response to the angry Blackpool fans who have flooded radio phone-ins and internet message boards.

“As from next season it will be a Football League regulation that all clubs have covers, but it isn't at the moment.

“People will always go on about something and will always know better, but as it stands we don't have to have covers and we haven't got them.

“People going on about things doesn't create money to buy them. Of course we'd like to have them, but this season we are prioritising on the field - and that is paying significant dividends, as I'm sure everyone will agree.”

Only one other Championship game was postponed on Bank Holiday Monday (Doncaster v Leicester), while Blackpool's non-league neighbours Fleetwood Town - who are less than 10 miles up the road - were able to get their home game on after the Blue Square North side invested in pitch covers.

A Blackpool club spokesman said: “We will be touch with Ipswich Town over the coming days as to the state of the pitch and any pitch inspection will be announced as soon as possible.”

Around 2,000 Norwich City fans made the 165-mile trip to Walsall on Monday only for their scheduled League One match to be called off just an hour before kick-off, again for a frozen pitch, but there are no such fears for Colchester United's FA Cup trip to Blackpool's Lancashire rivals Preston North End on Saturday following the use of covers at Deepdale.

“Our pitch on Boxing Day was fine and we have had that covered ever since,” said a Preston spokesperson.

“The problems occurred with the surrounding areas, but work has been ongoing to maintain these areas and will continue throughout the week to ensure the conditions are safe for the fixture to go ahead. At this point in time, there are no problems, but we will have to take it day by day and assess the weather and the conditions.”

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