Daventry’s pitch far from perfect as weather causes fixture chaos

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Not even a ton of sand and thousands of pitchfork marks made by a volunteer ground force were enough to save Daventry Town’s top-of-the-table clash with Dunstable at Communications Park on Saturday.

“The situation is getting quite serious,” admitted the Town’s match secretary Nigel Foster.

“Already we are committed to playing twice a week right up until the end of March.”

Daventry were reluctant to call off the Dunstable game following an early morning referee’s inspection, as a similar scenario had led to the postponement of the potentially lucrative New Year’s Day encounter with Kettering Town.

On that occasion the match referee was swayed by adverse weather forecasts, only for the pitch to be playable by 3pm.

This time though, despite the herculean efforts of Foster’s father (groundsman John Foster) the match had to be called off before Dunstable were due to journey north at midday.

Even in the unlikely event of no more wet weather this winter, Daventry face the prospect of playing at least twice a week throughout February, March and most of April.

That is because earlier FA Cup and Trophy runs meant that the Purple Army had completed only half of its scheduled 42 Southern League fixtures before Tuesday night’s fixture at Hayes which, was also postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

Promotion play-offs dates are set in tablets of stone for the first week in May, so all Calor League fixtures must be completed by the end of April come hell or high water, and Town still have 21 games to play.

Meanwhile Daventry are also committed to taking on Cogenhoe United in the NFA Senior Cup final at Sixfields in mid-April, the Cooks havingbeaten Long Buckby 3-0 in Tuesday’s semi-final.

In my youth, games went ahead in all kinds of weather - rain, hail, sleet or snow - but these days referees are much more fussy thanks no doubt to the ever-increasing Health and Safety lobby.

Playing on frozen pitches is clearly dangerous, but does it really matter if wet patches prevent the ball from rolling properly anywhere except in the goalmouths? Play continued in the Beaconsfield-Daventry match last month despite second half monsoon conditions.

Without expensive drainage non-League football clubs could face continued problems if the pattern of wet winters continues. At step four level Rugby Town are one of the few clubs equipped to deal with this problem. Rearranging matches for Tuesday nights presents players with work related problems especially as the SL’s more northerly clubs such as Daventry and Rugby face early travelling down the motorways for north London fixtures.

Attendances also suffer.

Since the FA Cup defeat at Chesterfield in early December the Town have played five midweek home league games with only the Aylesbury fixture attracting a three-figure crowd of 141.