Chief Executive Nigel Clibbens was with match referee Mark Heywood this morning as he carried out an early pitch inspection following 48-hours of very cold temperatures in Cumbria.
Speaking about the postponement of tonight’s Emirates FA Cup second round replay, he said: “We’re all really disappointed. The ground staff, under David Mitchell, have worked really hard over the last couple of days, but ultimately it’s been a fruitless task for them.
“The temperatures on Sunday night and Monday morning got down to -7 and -8, and even last night they were still down as far as -5. As we stand here now [10am on Tuesday morning] we’re at about zero degrees and the pitch is rock hard.
“As we know, at the Warwick Road End we have about 40-yards or so of the pitch which doesn’t get any sun until into the afternoon, and that area is even harder than the rest of it. Realistically, with the temperatures and forecast we have, the change in weather is probably going to come 24-hours too late for us.”
With the game being called off early on Tuesday morning, he explained: “That’s just everybody trying to be realistic. If we were in Gillingham’s shoes we would want to know as early as possible as well.
“It is a long way and we know we have obligations to fans and other teams. We spoke to the referee and his thinking was that if there was any chance at all then he was prepared to wait. Given how hard the ground is, and with the forecast as it is now, that was unrealistic.
“The disappointing thing for the ground staff is that they were very prepared, and they’d had pitch covers on since Friday. They know the surface and they know what it takes to get games on inside out.
“An example of that was a couple of weeks ago when we had the flood. They were confident that we would play on the Saturday, despite the pitch being under water up to the halfway line, and that turned out to be the case.
“They were very concerned about this game since Sunday morning, but they’ve tried their best and it certainly isn’t down to them that it’s been called off.”
United’s last postponement due to a frozen playing surface was as long ago as December 2010, when the home game against Exeter City fell foul of an extremely cold spell, with United having built up an excellent reputation in the meantime for dealing with inclement weather.
“That’s really good going, especially with where we are in the country and the kind of weather we get,” he said. “It’s just one of those things.
“Obviously it squeezes the fixture list and it makes it an even busier period ahead. We’ll confirm the rearranged date as soon as we can and, as we speak now, we would think that’s likely to be next week.
“We understand that Gillingham have a game up at Fleetwood a week on Friday, so we need to find a date acceptable for everybody. Fans who have already bought a ticket for tonight’s fixture can use that for the rearranged game or, if they find they can’t make it, contact the ticket office before the game is played and they’ll get a full refund.”
We’ll have more from Nigel Clibbens on the official website later today where he discusses current key issues including the relationship with EWM, the debt restructure and club accounts.
Click HERE to watch an interview with Nigel Clibbens on iFollow United now.