Ref explains decision to call off match

David Cuffley Referee Mark Haywood insisted that player safety was the prime concern in postponing Norwich City's match at Walsall just one hour before kick-off. The surface at the Banks's Stadium was deemed too hard in patches despite groundstaff putting braziers on the pitch to try to clear frozen patches.

David Cuffley

Referee Mark Haywood insisted that player safety was the prime concern in postponing Norwich City's match at Walsall just one hour before kick-off.

The surface at the Banks's Stadium was deemed too hard in patches despite groundstaff putting braziers on the pitch to try to clear frozen patches.

The West Yorkshire official said Walsall ground staff had done a great job in trying to get the game played.


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Said Mr Haywood: “I can only apologise for the lateness but they have tried so hard to get the game on. There are just pockets or little areas on the pitch where it's still firm. The really hard frost we've had over the last few days hasn't helped.

“The ground staff have really worked as hard as they can and done a tremendous job but unfortunately there is an element of risk if we play the game, regarding players' safety and I'm not prepared to take risk and risk players being injured or possibly doing a cruciate and being out for the rest of the season.

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“Unfortunately, on the grounds of that, with pockets of ice on it we've said we'll postpone the game to a later date."

He said the two managers, Paul Lambert and Walsall's Chris Hutchings, had accepted the decision.

“I don't think anybody wanted the decision but it's the right decision, if that makes sense," said the referee.

“Once you talk about players' safety, which is the paramount thing for us, I think both managers understood. They would agree that there was a risk and it was not a risk worth taking.

“The ground staff have worked really hard and the improvements they've made since I was here this morning have been tremendous. It's just that they've run out of time. With the ground being so hard, they've managed to defrost the first couple of inches in certain areas but they just couldn't do it all.

“They just ran out of time and we had to make a decision at a certain time. Its' very disappointing for the Norwich fans that travelled, but because they had travelled we left it as late as we could and made it two o'clock. But the top and bottom of it is that the players' safety is paramount.”

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