U's will put pitch before players

COLCHESTER United will prioritise pitch repairs over player recruitment this summer.The Weston Homes Community Stadium pitch, still less than two years old, has taken a real battering from the harsh weather this winter.

Stuart Watson

COLCHESTER United will prioritise pitch repairs over player recruitment this summer.

The Weston Homes Community Stadium pitch, still less than two years old, has taken a real battering from the harsh weather this winter.

A combination of heavy snow, frost and rain has left the surface resembling a cabbage patch in recent weeks, with badly affected areas patched up by unsightly layers of sand.


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The call-off of Tuesday night's scheduled League One match against Brentford was the second time the U's have had a home game postponed this season. And should inclement conditions further disrupt Colchester's fixture list, it could well have a negative effect on their end of season promotion push.

“We will have no choice but to sort the pitch out this summer,” confirmed U's chairman and owner Robbie Cowling.

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“It's going to mean money spent; and while I'd rather spend that money on the team we have no choice but to get this done.

“The way the pitch has been this season is just not acceptable. Dave (Blacknall, head groundsman) has done a great job, but it appears that there were problems when the pitch was first installed.”

Following last weekend's 1-0 win over Oldham, third-place Colchester had significantly narrowed the gap on the top two.

However, with the U's inactive in midweek, both Norwich and Leeds restored some breathing space with their respective victories.

“We are already forming plans for the pitch and I have in my mind what I'd like to happen,” said David Blacknall, who was named 'Groundsman of the Year' at the end of the 2004/5 season for his work on the excellent Layer Road pitch.

“We'll only have a certain window of opportunity to get things done, but we will do everything we can.”

The chain reaction of damage to the Weston Homes Community Stadium pitch was kick-started last November when the U's pushed ahead and played a home match against Exeter in waterlogged conditions.

Matches against Norwich and Southend have been equally marred by the conditions since then, but Blacknall has no regrets about those games going ahead.

“It's easy to say in hindsight that they shouldn't have been played,” he said. “But as groundsmen our job is to get games on.”

Colchester are away to Bristol Rovers this Saturday and are scheduled to return to home action on March 8 with the Monday night visit of Brighton.

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