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How can you play football on this?

0613132 SSFF craig surgeon 
Craig Surgeon, Head Groundsman at Starks Park at the South Stand goal-mouth showing the state of the pitch - at Starks Park, Kirkcaldy

0613132 SSFF craig surgeon Craig Surgeon, Head Groundsman at Starks Park at the South Stand goal-mouth showing the state of the pitch - at Starks Park, Kirkcaldy

RAITH Rovers are facing a fight to get their weather-beaten pitch ready for play on Saturday.

Stark’s Park has been left resembling a mudbath after Sunday’s Scottish Cup clash against Celtic, which followed days of heavy rain and overnight frosts.

Head groundsman Craig Surgeon worked wonders just to get the game on and avoid a postponement that would have cost the club around £100,000 in TV rights.

However, he has now been left with the headache of restoring the ravaged pitch to a playable state ahead of the visit of Partick Thistle.

“The sheer amount of rain we had last week was unbelievable,” he told the Press.

“The main thing was the game went ahead, but it’s left the pitch in a mess to the extent that we could be toiling for Saturday.

“Even if we get it playable, it won’t get any better than it was on Sunday for the rest of the season, so the team is going to have to plod along with it.

“Nobody wants to play on a tattie field but that’s what we’ve got at the moment.”

Making things worse for Craig is the fact that a condition called black layer has infiltrated the soil, leading to drainage problems.

“It’s every groundsman and greenkeeper’s worst nightmare,” he said.

“It causes the pitch to go spongy and releases an eggy smell - you can smell it if you stand next to the pitch.

“I’ve never seen the pitch this bad, and being a smaller club we can’t afford the machinery to fix it.

“Hopefully the club release some funds to get it fixed in the summer. That could be costly.”

Despite more snow, rain and frosts this week, Craig is hopeful he can get the Partick game on.

“I’m hoping the next few days are drier and the wind picks up,” he said.

“I’m certainly doing everything I can because I’ve never had a call-off since I came to the club.

“There’s been a few reserve games called off but I don’t count them!”

For the Raith players, the state of the pitch presents an extra challenge.

Manager Grant Murray said: “We’ll just have to adapt to it. Celtic certainly adapted to it on Sunday.

“Players will have to realise that they can’t run with the ball or pass it along the ground in certain areas of the pitch.

“It’s not ideal, but that’s just the way it is for Scottish clubs at this time of year.

“I saw on the TV highlights that Falkirk’s pitch is in a similar state to ours.

“Ross County’s is bad as well, and they’ve spent £500,000 on it.

“There’s nothing you can do.”

If Saturday’s game does go ahead Murray will be looking for his players to put in the same effort against managerless Thistle as they did against the SPL champions.

“We had a good shape about us and showed a great willingness to work when we didn’t have the ball,” he said.

“We must take that into our league games.

“Partick players will be coming here looking to impress Alan Archibald, who is their caretaker manager at the moment.

“He could get the job permanently so the players will be keen to get the wins that keep them at the top of the table.

“For us, we played well against Partick the last time we played them but lost 3-2.

“It’s all well and good taking the plaudits for good performances, but pats on the back don’t get you points.”

Rovers will be without David Smith after the on-loan Hearts winger picked up a hamstring injury against Celtic.

 

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