Saturday, 21 February 2009

A Waiting Game

Glossop's Quarter-Final match on Saturday 28th February is in danger of being postponed, and there is little Glossop can do about it.

Chances are that the pitch at Surrey Street will be fine; Glossop are ready and waiting. The trouble is, they have no opponents yet. There is still one Fifth Round tie to be played; St. Ives Town v Marske United have tried hard to play their tie, but it has now been postponed several times. It is the winners of that particular encounter that should be travelling to Glossop next Saturday. After falling foul of the snow on 7th February, St. Ives tried to get the game played a week later on the 14th. That game was switched to the Sunday (15th). The third attempt was called off at the very last minute (see picture above) after an army of locals tried to get a frozen surface into a fit state.

But all in vain; a very late postponement (45 minutes before kick-off) meant that Marske United players and fans had already travelled the 200 miles from Redcar to Cambridgeshire. As a gesture of goodwill, the Marske United Chairman, Bill Park, bought all travelling fans a drink in the club bar. Markse United later discovered that St. Ives Town was already making arrangements for the Quarter-Final trip up to Glossop. Confidence or arrogance? Or stupidity? I'm sure Marske United have their own view on this.

The fourth attempt was due today, but the St. Ives surface failed an inspection. The tie will now be tomorrow, Sunday 22nd February, at 1pm, with the venue switched to Milton Road, home of locals Cambridge City. Fifth time lucky? Fingers crossed that this goes ahead, and there is a conclusive result. If the game is postponed again, or if it ends in a draw after regular and extra-time, they will have to go at it again next Saturday (28th February), the scheduled date for the Quarter-Final. And all the while, Glossop can but sit and wait.

Clear as mud? Or, dare I say, a muddy pitch?

At this level, fixtures can easily back-up for clubs. Without the benefit of under soil heating or unlimited funds to get games on, postponements at this time of year are a regular annoyance. Rearranged FA Vase games take precedence over League games and it is not uncommon for the rearranged games, or replays, to be played out on a Saturday rather than a midweek evening. At last week's game between Bitton AFC and Glossop, an announcement was made just before kick-off to the effect that, should the tie be all square at 90 minutes, extra-time would be played. If the game was still deadlocked after extra-time, a replay was scheduled for Saturday 21st February (today). This announcement made my heart skip a beat; today (in about 30 minutes in fact, must get a move on) is my son's birthday party. Thankfully, the game was settled last week and a potential divorce was conveniently avoided.

Of course, this kind of fixture bottleneck is not unique to the lower League competitions. A similar thing has hit the FA Cup this season; the Arsenal v Cardiff City Fourth Round replay was played last weekend in amongst the Fifth Round schedule; Burnley, who face either Arsenal or Cardiff City in the next round, had to sit and twiddle their collective thumbs. Arsenal won the replay 4-0; on the weekend of the Sixth Round of FA Cup games, Arsenal and Burnley will be one round in arrears.

So Glossop will have one eye very firmly fixed on tomorrow's events at Cambridge City. Only late on in the afternoon will Glossop fans know whether they can make, with any degree of certainty, firm plans for one week today. It feels as if it has been a long wait, and they may have to wait longer still.

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