There was frustration for Raith Rovers and their travelling fans yesterday as heavy snow forced the postponement of their match at St Mirren less than 10 minutes before kick-off.
Most Rovers fans were already inside the ground, having travelled to Paisley in difficult conditions, when referee Barry Cook made the decision to call off the match on the grounds of player safety.
The situation was particularly disappointing for a group Ingolstadt FC supporters - Kirkcaldy’s twin town - who were visiting from Germany and arrived at the stadium just in time to be told the match was off.
The pitch had previously survived two inspections - one at 10.45 a.m and another around noon - but it was clear as kick-off approached that the pitch was no longer unplayable.
Both clubs agreed that the correct decision was made, however, Raith chief executive Eric Drysdale felt that the call should have been made much earlier.
“The forecast for the afternoon was for snow, so I was surprised when the match referee initally put the game on,” he said.
“At this time of year it takes a brave man to say the forecast is going to be completely wrong, so I’m very disappointed that it was called off so late.
“I feel particularly bad for the Raith supporters who have made their way through here in difficult road conditions. I have to say that I don’t think that aspect was properly taken into account here.
“St Mirren did all they could to get the game on but if it’s snowing and the forecast is for more snow the game should have been put off at noon.”
Match referee Barry Cook explained that the pitch was playable up until an hour before kick-off and that he tried to give the match every chance of going ahead.
“About 100 people worked really hard to clear the park of snow and by two o’clock everything was fine, but there was a real deterioration in conditions and it’s really disappointing for everybody - the suppoters, for us, for the teams and especially for the ground staff,” he said.
“It was becoming farcical when they were clearing the lines and it was getting covered back over so there was only one decision that could be made at that time, and that was to call it off.
“To be fair to the players and managers and everybody so far, they’ve been quite understanding of that.
“Hopefully the supporters that have travelled will be understanding that we wanted to give it as much time as possible.
“It would be sods law that if I made decision to call it off at 12 o’clock that there would be no snow and people would be asking why the game got called off.
“But equally, the other way around, when you put it on you’re always taking a chance with the weather and unfortunately for us it came at the wrong time just before kick-off.
“At half past two both managers did say that a delay would be preferable, but as conditions really detoriated it became clear that even with a delay, it wouldn’t make any difference.
“If players are going to be injured both amnagers and players don’t want to be involved in that. We as referees need to take a bumber of factors into account, and that’s certianly one of them.”
With Mark Stewart and Grant Anderson back in the starting line-up, Raith boss Ray McKinnon said he was looking forward to the match, but agreed that the game could not be played.
“There’s no escaping that it’s the correct decision,” he said. “Based on safety - and even the quality of football that would’ve been played - it’s the right decision.
“You want to come down here when it’s a nice night and play a proper game.
“It was playable when we got here about ten to two and decision was made to play the game.
“But unfortunately, the heavens opened which made it very dangerous for the players.
“I spoke to my goalkeeper (Kevin Cuthbert) and he said it was embarrassing to even consider playing - the yellow ball was turning white.
“Somebody could’ve slipped and got a serious injury and we’d be standing here saying that the game should never have taken place.
“It’s frustrating for me personally, and for the fans. We had a bus load of Germans over from the twin town and they haven’t seen us, so it’s frustrating for everybody.
“But it will also benefit us because we’re hoping the next time we play them we’ll have guys like Jason Thomson, Lewis Toshney back - we might even have a striker on board.”
McKinnon confirmed that he had enquired about taking St Johnstone striker John Sutton on loan, but the rule preventing clubs from loaning more than one player over the age of 21 means the deal cannot be done, with Hamilton forward Louis Longridge already on loan at Stark’s Park.
McKinnon added: “We’re looking for someone who is proven so we’re having to look down south or for somebody who is unattached to a team, and there’s not much going about.”