Snow worries for groundsman Alan

IPSWICH Town were today making special plans to ensure that Sunday's big derby clash beats the weather.Armed with information from the Meteorological Office, head groundsman Alan Ferguson is confident the eagerly awaited clash with Norwich will not fall victim to the Arctic conditions forecast for the weekend.

IPSWICH Town were today making special plans to ensure that Sunday's big derby clash beats the

weather.

Armed with information from the Meteorological Office, head groundsman Alan Ferguson is confident the eagerly awaited clash with Norwich will not fall victim to the Arctic conditions forecast for the weekend.

The Met Office today issued a warning to indicate that the entire east side of the country is likely to be affected by snow.

But Ferguson has been on alert since he heard America's east coast was experiencing heavy snowfalls over the past fortnight.

He said: "We normally tend to get the tail end of it about 14 days later, once it has worked its way across the pond and that's what is happening this time."

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Although Ferguson can ensure the playing surface is in peak condition, heavy snow in the area could still put the big game at risk.

He added: "The police and safety people will have a big say if the roads and stadium accesses are affected. There remains a threat from other areas.

"We would naturally hope that the game goes ahead as planned and we are making every effort to ensure that is the case."

Ferguson said the pitch would be cut, with all lines marked, at lunchtime tomorrow, when the weather is expected to be mild.

Then he and his team will bring out the massive cover, in which Town invested a few years ago, ahead of the anticipated cold snap.

The cover is inflated and, within an hour, warm air fed in through a gas pipe behind the Greene King Stand goal is getting to work.

A fall of snow offers no threat to the pitch, since it melts upon contact with the cover and drains away.

Even a particularly severe blast can be dealt with by dropping the cover and sweeping it clear. "That only takes about 50 minutes with a crew of half a dozen," said Ferguson, a previous groundsman of the year.

Sunday's noon kick-off doesn't help, since it reduces the daylight hours ahead of the game and Ferguson is even considering a plan to keep staff at the stadium overnight.

He added: "There is a major safety aspect to consider, either if we're burning gas or the wind speed picks up to the extent that we may have to drop the cover."

Ferguson is even prepared to mark the pitch with red or blue paint to assist the officials, while the club's orange balls may be dusted off and brought into use.

Richard Naylor is fit and available for Sunday's game after shaking off the hamstring problem that saw him sit out last weekend's goalless draw at Millwall.

Ipswich boss Joe Royle said: "Richard trained yesterday and is fine. The players are off today but they are in tomorrow to start the big build-up for the Norwich game."

The Canaries are still waiting to confirm the signature of Charlton striker Matthias Svensson, although they remain confident of securing the 29-year-old Swedish striker ahead of Saturday's noon transfer deadline.

But there seems to be no chance of Darren Huckerby putting in an appearance at Portman Road on Sunday as the chase for the Manchester City attacker hots up.

Norwich, West Bromwich Albion and Wigan have all agreed fees with City, but the player is going nowhere fast according to agent Phil Smith.

With Huckerby's contract, which still has 18 months to run, rumoured to be worth £1.5million, Smith is reluctant to allow his client to move on without some sort of compensation payment.

Norwich's chances of landing a player who was a huge success during his three-month loan spell, which only ended last weekend, could be further reduced by the news that Portsmouth have now entered the signing race.

It will be in Pompey's best interests if Huckerby does nothing until January, when the transfer window opens and Fratton Park boss Harry Redknapp will be able to make his move.

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