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Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Monday, 6 December 2010

Morton face two-month home freeze

A snow-covered Cappielow
Morton hope the covers come off in time for Saturday's visit of Dundee

By Keir Murray

The postponement of Morton's game against Falkirk on Tuesday raises the prospect of the Greenock side going two months without playing at home.

The midweek First Division game is one of 10 in the Scottish Football League to be hit by the winter weather.

A win over Dunfermline on 6 November was Ton's last home game.

Dundee are due to visit Cappielow on Saturday and if that match falls to the snow, the next home game is not until 2 January, against Partick Thistle.

Gillian Donaldson, chief executive at Morton, says the club has chairman Douglas Rae to thank for easing the loss of revenue when there are no fans coming through the turnstiles.

Can't control weather - Donaldson

"You can't budget for the matches being called off," she said.

"We are fortunate in having a chairman that is able to cover the gaps.

"I can only imagine how difficult it is for some of the other clubs who don't have that level of support financially.

"There is no doubt about it, he keeps the club ticking over; there are not many other options for increasing the income levels.

"The SFL made a payment to clubs when all the games were called off. But that's only an advance payment of money that would be distributed to clubs at a late date. It's all in the overall budget."

Asked if she would be in favour of a winter break in the SFL, Donaldson joked: "This weather proves we would need to have a shutdown from the end of November until the end of February.

"A few years ago we had a game called off in August because the pitch was flooded!

"It's incredibly difficult. It's just Scotland, you just have to get on with it. There is not really a lot we can do about the weather."

Mark Farrell, the groundsman at Cappielow, is keeping his fingers crossed that the cold weather relents so that the game against Dundee can go ahead.

He told BBC Scotland: "We had a squad of guys pencilled in to help to clear the pitch for the game against Falkirk. We may need them for Saturday.

Mark explains the issues facing football ground staff

"We need the weather to change soon."

Farrell had laid the covers on the pitch on Thursday 25 November in preparation for Morton's game against the Bairns on the Saturday, its original scheduled date.

The game was set to go ahead, despite the strike by Scotland's refereeing officials, after lots were drawn by SFL clubs to decide which game should be played under the guidance of the scarce match officials drafted in from abroad.

But the late withdrawal by Polish replacements meant it was cancelled the day before kick-off.

Since then, Farrell has been frustrated in his attempts to get the surface playable.

He said: "We've just been clearing the paths. That's all we can do with the park being frozen underneath and on top of the covers.

"There is very little we can do on the park now with the temperatures being so low.

"If we didn't have this snow on top of the covers and it was just frost, as soon as the temperatures had risen we could have taken the covers off, but there is no way we can do that now.

"The snow helps to insulate the ground, but the temperatures are so low you cannot win. There's frost on the leaf plant and frost in the ground as well."

Farrell, a former greenkeeper, explained that there is a critical time to remove the covers to stop the grass being damaged.

"As long as it doesn't thaw out under the cover with the snow on top, we are OK. While it's frozen, we are OK.

"If the conditions change, we need to get the covers off as soon as possible or the grass would begin to yellow and die."



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see also
Fourteen Scottish games postponed
06 Dec 10 |  Scottish Cups


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