Atherton Collieries explain why match v South Shields was called off just 90 minutes before kick-off

Officials make an inspection on the pitch at Atherton Collieries before deciding to call off the game v South Shields. Pic: Peter Talbot.
Officials make an inspection on the pitch at Atherton Collieries before deciding to call off the game v South Shields. Pic: Peter Talbot.
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South Shields FC and their fans had a frustrating six-hour round trip yesterday, and didn't get to see a ball kicked.

The Mariners' Evostik North League game at Atherton Collieries was postponed just 90 minutes before kick-off, with the official party and most of the travelling fans already there.

The South Shields players and management can only wait as the referee carries out his pitch inspection at Atherton Collieries. Pic: Peter Talbot.

The South Shields players and management can only wait as the referee carries out his pitch inspection at Atherton Collieries. Pic: Peter Talbot.

They made the most of the situation by taking the players for a drink in the Greater Manchester town with fans before heading back north.

Some fans have rounded on the host club, asking why they left it so late to call off the game when they knew Shields fans would be travelling in numbers.

Today, Atherton made a statement regarding the late postponement, to try to dodge some of the flak which has been coming their way.

It said: "It has been no secret that the weather in our region, and indeed the majority of the country this week, raised early concerns about the possibility of the match going ahead.

The South Shields players await the result of the officials' pitch inspection at Atherton Collieries. Pic: Peter Talbot.

The South Shields players await the result of the officials' pitch inspection at Atherton Collieries. Pic: Peter Talbot.

"So much so that South Shields supporters and officials were contacting us through our social media platforms as early as Tuesday morning.

"Since that first message we have been transparent with those asking questions and have tried our utmost to keep supporters of both clubs updated.

"We understand fully the concerns that South Shields supporters had ahead of travelling following their recent postponement at Bamber Bridge, which we saw unfold on social media; agreeing it was a situation we would never wish to find ourselves in.

"Therefore, to avoid similar anger, disappointment and financial waste to supporters of both clubs, we put together a contingency plan should the weather worsen as the week progressed.

It's off lads ... South Shields head for home after the match referee postponed their game at Atherton Collieries. Pic: Peter Talbot.

It's off lads ... South Shields head for home after the match referee postponed their game at Atherton Collieries. Pic: Peter Talbot.

"Our ground staff worked on the pitch every single day of the week, and by Thursday evening the playing surface was still holding up; as despite many parts of the North West being deluged, Atherton was spared the worst of the wet weather.

"Looking at the forecast and knowing the pitch was playable, on Friday morning the decision was made to go ahead and produce a large quantity of programmes and order a sizeable quantity of food, as well as ensuring the stock in our bar was replenished. All of which took our volunteers a lot of time and effort alongside their full-time jobs.

"We also made the decision to contact a local referee with a view to a holding a precautionary pitch inspection should we feel the need to conduct one on Saturday morning.

"As club officials assessed the pitch at 8am on Saturday morning it was agreed that the pitch was playable, and as a result the precautionary pitch inspection was cancelled.

"This decision was made on the basis of us, as a group of committee members, having over 50 years experience of knowing how our pitch drains, knowing how to deal with the few problem areas and by looking at the upcoming weather forecast.

"On top of this, we know and can be supported when we state that we have started matches on that pitch when it has been in far worse condition.

"By 9am the pitch had been marked and excess water had been removed. It was at this stage we made the decision the game was on. We could not have announced this at a later time, as we knew supporters from South Shields would be waiting for the all-clear before setting off.

"At around midday, a short deluge hit Atherton and made a couple of problem areas on the pitch saturated. It caused unease for us, but by this stage all local referees had already set off to their respective appointments and South Shields Football Club were well on their way.

"Our ground staff continued to work on the pitch following the latest downpour and then the match officials turned up. They took the decision to postpone the match.

"Nobody at Atherton Collieries Football Club wanted this situation to arise, and we can fully sympathise with South Shields Football Club, having found ourselves in similar situations in the past. It is what happens in football; it isn’t the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last.

"Everybody from Atherton Collieries Football Club had a fantastic time at Mariners Park earlier in the season and found ourselves treated fantastically. It is therefore disappointing that despite our best efforts, some now view our club in a negative way.

"Throughout the week we tried our very best to get that game on and were confident it would go ahead on Saturday morning.

"Finally, we would like to apologise to those who had a wasted journey. Hopefully you can understand the tough position we found ourselves in."