It is not often that a match official will step forward and explain a controversial decision he has made, but that is exactly what Ross Joyce did after postponing Exeter City’s League Two clash at Barrow on Tuesday night less than an hour before kick-off.
The Grecians had made a 335-mile journey to the Cumbrian town on the morning of the match, which had been in danger due to the freezing temperatures currently sweeping the UK.
A local official held two early inspections and then Joyce held one himself at 4pm. At both times, the pitch was playable but, as the temperatures dipped further, he decided to bring the kick-off time forward by half an hour. Unfortunately, frost got into the pitch making it hard, dangerous and unplayable.
City were understandably frustrated, having travelled all that way, but accepted there was no other option, while fans of both Barrow and the Grecians questioned why the game was postponed so late in the day. To his great credit, though, Joyce gave his reasons to the official Barrow website.
“It’s a really tough one,” he said. “We had the initial inspection at 8am and it was quite hopeful with the work going on and the heaters etc that the game would be OK and when we looked at it again at midday, it looked a lot more playable.
“I arrived at 3.50pm and if we had kicked off at that time, the pitch was playable in terms of that, but we did have a little concern with the temperatures due to come after that as it was due to drop to zero and minus one.
“I worked with both clubs, spoke to them both, and there was good communication and we brought the kick-off forward to 6.30pm to give the game every opportunity but, unfortunately, in the last 30-40 minutes, the pitch became really crispy because of the temperatures and the far touchline has become dangerous.
“We’ve had a chat and involved both clubs, both managers and we’ve come to the agreement that for the players safety, the game won’t take place this evening.
“It is a difficult decision and I understand the frustrations of why it was left so late, but I think we did the right thing to give the game every opportunity, especially with Exeter’s travel, they came up early this morning.
“Both clubs were consulted on it and in fairness, both clubs agreed with the decision to postpone the game and from Exeter’s perspective – and my own – the guys at Barrow have worked really hard throughout the day to get the game on. It is frustrating, but the weather has beaten us.”
It is the second time Exeter’s trip to Barrow has been postponed this season, the first was on New Year’s Day when the pitch was also frozen, while games at Stevenage, Harrogate and Newport County have also been postponed meaning City have had their fair share of wasted journeys this season.
The Grecians stayed at a hotel near Lancaster after leaving Holker Street with manager Matt Taylor saying he was going to treat the players to some food and a few beers with Julian Tagg footing the bill!
“I’m sure Taggy won’t be happy with the food bill but I’ve promised the players some Chinese, Nando’s, or Indian and a couple of beers, just to get them to relax,” he said.
“It has been a full slog this season and day’s like today don’t help, so we’ll do maybe a bit of team bonding when we get to the hotel and a little bit of training Wednesday and then turn the focus to Oldham on Saturday.”
The next available date for when the match could be re-arranged for is not until March 30, as the two midweeks before then that City have free, the Bluebirds already have re-arranged fixtures scheduled.
But with that being the week before Easter and a round of Good Friday fixtures, it may be April 13 when it is re-arranged to.
The Grecians will be facing another long trip to Oldham Athletic on Saturday, although temperatures are predicted to be below zero for much of the time between now and Saturday, so that game is also looking doubtful.