Harrogate Town hoping pitch dries up in time for cup replay

Paul Beesley pictured on October 13, the last time Town played at home.  (121013M4b)
Paul Beesley pictured on October 13, the last time Town played at home. (121013M4b)

Harrogate Town are battling both time and the weather this week, hoping their problematic pitch dries up before Tuesday night’s FA Cup replay at home to Hyde (7.45pm).

The surface has been the cause of several postponements this season, including the first attempt at the cup replay last Tuesday.

The latest fixture to suffer was Saturday’s league hosting of Corby.

At the moment, the club are confident of getting the cup match on.

They are arranging for specialist heaters to help dry out the surface around the goalmouths, but are likely to schedule another pitch inspection on Tuesday.

Should the outcome of that be another postponement, Town will attempt to try again on Wednesday night.

If it’s still not right by Wednesday, the cup match will take precedence over Town’s league trip to Chester on Saturday, and for the winners, push back the first round tie away at Torquay United to November 6.

A club spokesman explained: “Our game on Saturday was called off due to parts of both goal mouths being very wet and it poses a danger to players. Over the weekend our ground staff have covered the wet areas with thin sheeting to enable the areas to dry but keep it free from any further damage from rain we experienced over the weekend.

“We have spoken to the FA and we are trying our best to get the game on for Tuesday. If it is called off we have to try for Wednesday. Then we aim for Saturday and the winner will go down to Torquay on Tuesday November 6.”

Meantime, Town chairman Irving Weaver updated fans via a statement on the official Town website last Thursday on the reasons behind the pitch’s ongoing troubles.

It was dug up, levelled and resown over the close season but the awful weather over the summer which has continued into the autumn, has proved a constant battle in terms of the surface settling down and effective drainage.

Mr Weaver said: “The whole process has been overseen by specialist consultants, jointly appointed by the FA and ourselves.

“The extended wet Summer delayed our start and progress, resulting in our first match in August being played on a pitch which had had less than six weeks to grow, having been reseeded and over seeded to compensate for extreme weather damage.

“Worse was to follow by playing our first two home games home games against Altrincham and Bradford Park Avenue in torrential rain. The surface from that scenario has not recovered, with only one league game against Oxford City and the Charity game having been played in dry conditions.

“The top soil layer has been reconstituted by cut and filling the pitch and will take time to settle down, the biggest factor is that the grass roots never had the opportunity to grow deep enough and therefore easily kicked into mud.

“Deeper roots act as drainage to surface water and a full and established grass surface would have prevented exposure to top soil, which would have prevented creating a “pudding” effect. To try to alleviate our problems we have, following advice, as soon as the pitch was dry enough after the Bradford game we used a Quasi machine which injects compressed air into the ground to allow it breath and aid drainage, followed by verti- draining, creating drainage holes over the whole surface.

“Since the pitch has been lowered, particularly at the hospital end, the heavy rainfall has run off the tarmac area, collecting and free falling down the new gradient, flooding the top goal area. Last week we completed the installation of a Aco drain along the top end which now collects all the surface water from the hard standing.

“We have had similar circumstances adjacent the Wetherby Road terrace, creating water ponding along the touchline. This week we completed the installation of a French drain to capture that run-off water.

“In the original plan, as standard practise, is to sand slit the pitch next Spring, having allowed the grass to consolidate and firm up.

“The slits act as a conduit for top surface water to reach the comprehensive drainage system which now exists below the top soil. Until that process is completed, successfully draining the pitch is at risk. It is not uncommon for a troubled first season to ensue, we have had unprecedented levels of rain fall, but even more damaging has been intense rain on match days.

“The cancellation of our last Tuesday’s match against Hyde was specifically due to surface water along the touchline adjacent the Wetherby Road terrace towards the burger bar, the inspecting referee offered the match referee the opportunity to play the match by ‘switching’ the linesmen, so they ran on the opposite half of the pitch, just as the previous match, but decided to call the game off.

“Decent weather for a period would really help, but we are where we are are, although frustrating, the under drainage is very effective, so in the long term we will have a playing surface that will be up to standard.”