Life’s a pitch as county’s ‘problem’ fixture is called off yet again

Sent Her Forward exclusive

Cowfold recreation ground, where Hurstpierpoint play their home games (Photo taken October 5 2014)

Hurstpierpoint’s pitch at Cowfold recreation ground is having work done on it over the summer

The Sussex County Women’s League, which has featured some of the most exciting – and controversial – incidents of the season, is heading for a suitably chaotic end after the long-awaited return match between Hurstpierpoint and Rottingdean Village was called off.

The game, initially scheduled for February 8 and then March 15, had been delayed pending disciplinary hearings into events during the clubs’ first meeting, on March 8.

They were finally resolved earlier this week, ending in small fines for Hurstpierpoint and their manager, Steve Weller.

With second place – though not specifically promotion – resting on the outcome of the game, officials had been hoping for a less eventful return match at Hurstpierpoint’s home venue, Cowfold recreation ground.

But the fixture was dramatically called off last night after the club discovered contractors had moved in to work on the publicly-owned pitch.

As a result, Hurstpierpoint have been charged by the league with failing to fulfil a fixture, resulting in yet another disciplinary case and extending the uncertainty over the end of the season still further.

Sensitivities

It’s a huge irony, given the sensitivities surrounding the match, which will determine who finishes second. And it adds to the frustration of both sides, who not only want to get their seasons out of the way but also face challenges in assembling enough players to enable the game to go ahead.

The winners of the game will finish second in the Sussex County League, behind champions Lancing. If it is a draw, neither will do so, leaving Crawley Wasps as league runners-up, making it difficult for the league management committee to take the option it would no doubt relish and scrap the game altogether.

However, all three sides have registered their desire for promotion, so that opportunity would not necessarily be eradicated on the strength of what happens to this problem fixture.

Weller told Sent Her Forward that Cowfold FC – who use the pitch, which is the responsibility of Cowfold Parish Council – had warned his club that availability was guaranteed only until May 10.

But the league – which he said had been notified of that – could not arrange the game until the disciplinary investigation by Sussex FA had been completed.

Sand and weedkiller

Weller added: “We knew that the work was due. Cowfold guaranteed us up to May 10. We informed the league that it was the last guaranteed date.

“When work had not started, we hoped we would be able to play, but the contractors turned up on Friday. We tried more than a dozen clubs, but adult football finished three weeks ago and clubs are all having work done on their pitches.

“It’s not been dug up, but 25 tonnes of sand and weedkiller have been put on it.”

He said: “We are disappointed not to be playing as we have only played one game at home this year and [have had] manny Sundays without a game during the season.

“I’m not sure whether we will get to play the game. I had 14 players today. Not sure if we will be so lucky next week.”

Rottingdean’s manager, Russell Brooks, told Sent Her Forward: “It’s down to the committee now. I presume they will be charged with an unfulfilled fixture. It just seems a shame it took so long to be sorted. I think it’s most unlikely to be played now.”

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