Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Glentoran and Linfield hoping Oval will pass new screen test

Help from the Fire Brigade in clearing water from the pitch enabled a Big Two game to go ahead in the past

THE Sky Sports cameras are set to roll at the Oval again next month, to screen the rearranged Glentoran v Linfield battle.

After the plug was pulled on Monday night’s Big Two meeting due to a waterlogged pitch, Glentoran vice chairman Aubry Ralph told the Belfast Telegraph that he would be happy if the rescheduled game went ahead without live television coverage

Sky Sports, however, are keen for the biggest fixture in the Carling Premiership to be given an even higher profile and they have pledged to return to Belfast to screen the match, which will now take place on Wednesday, November 9.

The Wednesday night date suits both Sky and the clubs as there are no Champions League matches that week.

Instead there are international fixtures planned for the following weekend, including Euro 2012 play-offs.

Both clubs and the Irish FA moved swiftly to organise a new date for the game, with memories of the severe frost and snow of the last two winters, which caused a plethora of postponements and a major fixture headache, still fresh.

Privately there are fears that the Oval pitch, which in the past has been regarded as the best surface in the Irish League, may struggle to stand up to the rigours of a harsh winter.

Monday’s postponement was the second time in less than a week that heavy rain has caused a match at the Oval to be called off.

Northern Ireland’s under-19 team had been due to face Montenegro in a European Championship qualifier at the east Belfast venue last Tuesday afternoon, but the match was switched to Mourneview Park with the Oval pitch deemed unplayable.

The club put that down to a faulty drainage pump and the Glens’ IRN-BRU League Cup clash against Portadown went ahead as planned 24 hours later.

Glentoran announced at midday on Monday, via their website, that there was no need for a pitch inspection, but just four hours later, as persistent rain hit large parts of Northern Ireland, the match was off.

The Oval pitch has been a problem in the past. This time last year a Victory Shield game between Northern Ireland and England was postponed.

Two years ago a league game against Dungannon Swifts was wiped out and a League Cup meeting with Linfield only went ahead after assistance from the Fire Brigade in clearing water from the playing surface.

Linfield, meanwhile, have advised fans not to ask for ticket money from Monday’s game to be refunded, unless they won’t be attending the rearranged game.

“Refunds will be made available for those supporters who know they cannot attend on the new date,” said Linfield secretary Ken Greer via the club’s official website.

“I would appeal to supporters not to ask for refunds if they simply intend to re-purchase tickets before the new date as this increases the administration and costs to Linfield FC for a fixture from which we receive no income.

“Please hold on to your match tickets if you know you will be able to attend the rescheduled game.”

Meanwhile the Glens have also rearranged their trip to Dungannon Swifts, scheduled for Monday, January 2, bringing it forward by 48 hours. The game will now be played on Saturday, December 31.

Coleraine’s trip to Cliftonville, scheduled for Monday, January 2, will also be played on New Year’s Eve.