Pitch Update for Easter Monday
UNITED welcome Woking to Plainmoor on Easter Monday for a massive fixture in the race for National League survival.
It is a game to excite all supporters but arguably the bigger story is whether the pitch at TQ1 will be able to survive the expected deluge on Sunday night and through to Monday morning.
The weather has already beaten us on three occasions this year but there is a reason why groundsman Chris Ralph and his assistant Julian Gouldthorpe won Pitch of the Year last summer. If any duo can get this massive game to go ahead, we have the right team in place.
“As it stands late on Sunday afternoon, we have a pitch with no real problems,” said Chris. “It has dried well, we’ve been able to cut it and our thanks to Blundells School in Tiverton for kindly supplying us with some added drying equipment.
“The concern we have is around the forecast for Sunday overnight and Monday morning, which will add to the underlying issues of an extremely wet winter. Rain is falling on a high-water table and a surface that has generally been saturated for the last few months.
“Our pitch doesn’t drain too badly due to the amount of work and sand dressings it has had over the years, plus the extra spending on renovations this year, but there is no escaping it is a clay-based pitch and every rainfall is topping up the last bout of wet weather.
“Certain areas of Plainmoor notoriously suffer and we have protected that part of the pitch with our rain covers. We will get ourselves into the club for around 6am tomorrow to make an initial assessment.
“The process then involves contacting the club secretary with an update, so he can liaise with the match referee and officials from Woking. At the moment, the forecast for during the game is dry, which is obviously an important factor when considering the viability of a game.
“We will always have a rough idea of what we can clear and how quickly it will drain. For the Guiseley game that was cancelled a week ago, the bad weather leading up to the game meant we were unable to verti-drain the pitch and we knew the water was going nowhere.
“In simplistic terms, verti-draining is covering the pitch in small holes to allow the water to seep through quicker. You can only do this when the pitch is relatively dry, as it would be counter-productive for us to be stomping around a saturated pitch trying to create holes in the slush.
“I am always aware the Yellow Army would be willing to help if required and it is fantastic to have that support. In this instance, however, it is not going to be beneficial for extra bodies to come in with their forks tomorrow.
“We’ve been able to open up the pitch for draining and more people walking around the pitch will actually cause more damage. All we can do tomorrow morning is to make an assessment, check what it’s like underneath the covers and go from there.
“The match referee is due to arrive around 11.30am and, given what is expected mid-morning tomorrow, it would be prudent to wait until then before any inspection. However, we have a local referee on stand-by for an earlier inspection if we consider the pitch to be in a potentially unrecoverable position at first light.
“We are desperate to get the game on and our friends from Woking will be the same, but we are ultimately left to the fate of the weather and any decision on the game going ahead or not will be down the referee.”
What we do know for certain is that Chris and Julian will be doing everything possible for us all to enjoy some live football on Easter Monday. Please keep an eye on our media channels for updates in the morning.