Simon Clegg praises groundsmen who say they could have done nothing more

SIMON Clegg has heaped praise on the dedication and hard work of the Town grounds-staff who spent a week ensuring Portman Road had every chance of staging a match on Saturday.

While the match against Middlesbrough lasted just 37 minutes, it was certainly not through the want of trying on the part of head groundsman Ben Connell and his team.

The chief executive said: “I am hugely disappointed, especially for all the groundsmen who have put so much time and effort into trying to get the pitch prepared for the match.

“We have had people working here through the night, the bubble has been up since Wednesday, all the hot air and burners that have gone into the pitch - people don’t recognise how much work goes into it.

Speaking just an hour after the abandonment, Clegg added: “I just walked out on the pitch, it is no different to the time the referee said yes we can play. But at the end of the day you have to respect his decision.

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“I am disappointed for our fans and also Middlesbrough fans who have come a long way to have the game abandoned after 37 minutes.”

Connell, in his first season in the top job following Alan Ferguson’s decision to join David Sheepshanks at national football centre St George’s Park, said he felt his team could have done nothing more to try and get the game played.

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He explained: “We are all very disappointed as we have been working for a week to make sure this game goes ahead. We thought we got there but I can’t argue with the referee. It is in his hands. He felt that it was not safe to carry on and we are fully supportive of that.

“I feel we have done, as a team and a club, everything we could to get the game as far as we did.”

Connell said the hard work in trying to get the game played started eight days ago after last weekend’s heavy snow.

The inflatable dome, that the club use to protect the pitch in bad weather, went up on Wednesday and Connell revealed the pitch was “absolutely fine” when he left the ground at 9pm on Friday night.

But with temperatures plummeting to around -11 Celsius overnight, the game was always going to be in doubt.

Referee Dean Whitestone underwent two pitch inspections, at 11.15am and then 1.45pm, and deemed it playable.

But after watching just 37 minutes of football, Connell added: “We were all quite happy the pitch was fine and confident the game could go ahead. It is just that the temperatures dropped.

“If we had undersoil heating, which is something we would like one day, it would be an advantage but it would also come at a cost.

“But we play with what we got. The boys have done really well to move around the heaters and get the game on to start with – that is the big thing in terms of our grounds-staff.”

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