Late derby postponement proves controversial

Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre football pitch. 22/09/2015 Pic Steve Robards SR1522454 SUS-150922-141112001
Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre football pitch. 22/09/2015 Pic Steve Robards SR1522454 SUS-150922-141112001

Steve Painter has defended Broadbridge Heath from criticism after their derby clash with Horsham was called off at the 11th hour on Saturday.

The pitch at the leisure centre had originally passed an inspection by the match referee just over an hour before the Premier Division clash kicked-off.

There was no morning inspection called, but after a second inspection just minutes before the scheduled start, the referee changed his mind and postponed the game.

A patch in one corner of the pitch by the goaline was deemed unplayable after concerns were raised by the Horsham management team about its condition and ultimately players’ safety.

Heath boss Painter was adamant that the pitch was actually in a better condition that the week before when their game against Wick & Barnham United was played.

He said: “The leisure centre will come in for a hounding over the state of the pitch and it isn’t fair. They worked on it all week and it was only a small area that wasn’t good.

“We had a pitch inspection against Wick & Barnham the previous Saturday morning and the referee said it was playable, and I thought he was joking as it was in a really bad way.

“It was so much better this week it never crossed anyone’s mind that an inspection was needed this week, especially when the referee turned up at 1pm and said it was playable.

“I want to say that Broabridge Heath Football Club categorically wanted the game on. We spent a week preparing for it and there was no other game we have wanted to play for this season.

“Getting 200 to 300 people through our turnstiles is important to us as a club, but it was clear it was Horsham that didn’t want to play it.

“When the referee hears things about possible broken ankles, he has no other option, and yes I agree it was probably unplayable in that area, but the view was how much is football is played there?

“If you speak to anyone it was clear Horsham were short of a few players. I just don’t want our club dragged through the mire, because we have tried to prepare all week to get the biggest game of our season on. But some of the things being said about our club by Horsham supporters on Twitter are completely unacceptable.”

Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola felt it was entirely the right decision and described the part of the pitch in question as ‘terrible’.

He said: “Common sense prevailed even though we could do without another game in midweek, I think it was the right decision.

“It’s a tricky one and normally I would have the hump, but I do not think it was playable, but then again I do not think it was at 10am either.

“I feel sorry for Broadbridge Heath as it is the sport centre that look after the pitch. I do not think the ref wanted to call it off with everyone there and people coming through gate, but at the same time it was bad and it really should not have been played - your foot completely sank in it and got stuck when we walked it.

“We weren’t missing players. We had James Shaw in goal with Gareth Williams away - who is away for the next two games as well - and five on the bench. We sent two out on loan last week - Jake Chadwick and Samir Hadi, who we could have recalled if we were short.

“It’s frustrating people would say that as we had only Evan Archibald out and our full strength line-up. People always think there is a motive behind things and there never really is.”

“We always try to get games on rather than play the midweek and squeeze them in, I lost a County One title because of that at East Preston.”

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