Game off verdict angers Quakers

The Northern Echo: MATCH OFF: The scene at The Northern Echo Arena last Thursday. The snow had been removed by Saturday but Quakers’ match was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch MATCH OFF: The scene at The Northern Echo Arena last Thursday. The snow had been removed by Saturday but Quakers’ match was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch

Darlington’S fixture backlog has increased due to their latest postponement, with Saturday’s easily their most controversial.

Quakers were due to host Alderhot Town but the match fell victim to the weather and became their sixth consecutive game to be called off.

Unlike the previous five, however, which were all postponed due to freezing temperatures, Saturday’s was called off because of a waterlogged pitch and the referee’s decision infuriated both clubs.

Colin Webster decided to call the game off following a midday inspection.

Many Aldershot supporters, who were embarking on their longest trip of the season, had reached the Sheffield area by the time the Shotley Bridge official called the game off.

Later in the a day a small group of fans completed the 273-mile trip and arrived at The Northern Echo Arena.

Early in the morning the pitch had been considered playable but heavy rainfall then cast the game into doubt.

Groundsman Gary Ventress spent the morning draining rainwater from the pitch and Quakers were confident there would be no standing water on the playing surface by 3pm.

But Webster, who had also examined the playing surface at 10am, inspected the pitch at 12pm, which is when he decided to call the game off.

But no rain fell in Darlington after midday and, with Ventress continuing to drain any standing water, the match could have been played.

The pitch was in such good condition Quakers even held an afternoon training session at The Northern Echo Arena.

Quakers were left very disappointed by Webster’s decision, especially as manager Steve Staunton had been looking forward to a return to action, having signed six players recently, all of whom were in line to make their debuts.

Club officials felt particularly let down. Not only had the work to clear water from the pitch gone to waste, the club had also spent the week clearing snow from the pitch and car parks, while a lot of effort had gone into a ‘Help for Heroes’ initiative.

With opposition coming in the form of Aldershot, known as the home of the British Army, and with the Catterick Garrison army barracks nearby, Quakers had intended to sell discounted tickets for those in the forces.

The cumulative effect of Quakers’ six calls-offs is causing a headache in rearranging this latest postponed game.

The Football League request clubs to rearrange fixtures as soon as possible, and with Darlington and Aldershot both free on February 2 that evening is a potential date.

However, that would mean Quakers having to play three home fixtures in eight days.

Plus, playing on that date would require Aldershot to undertake four consecutive away games.

Quakers are also available on February 16, but the Shots are away to Hereford United.

So, providing the Football League are receptive to a date in March, avoiding playing in February would be preferable for both clubs.

Darlington’s attentions now switch to tomorrow’s game at Rotherham United, which was originally scheduled to be played on Boxing Day.

■ The Darlington Supporters Club coach to Rotherham costs £13 and departs from Park Place at 4.15pm.

On Saturday Quakers are at Crewe and the supporters’ coach departs from at 10am and costs £18. To book a place call (01325) 243911.

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