The game that didn't happen ... the story of Farsley Celtic v Rotherham United

The pitch at Farsley CelticThe pitch at Farsley Celtic
The pitch at Farsley Celtic
A WINDOW inside the stadium was cracked to the point of being almost smashed.

A hosepipe lay across the pathway leading to the main stand, a dodgy connector unable to stem a constant trickle of water as a puddle formed incongruously on the floor on a hot July evening.

Drip, drip, drip. Risk assessment needed. Drip, drip, drip.

No-one minded. It was all part of the homespun charm and just like the scene at any number of non-league grounds where heart, spirit and good intentions run deeper than pockets.

The Farsley Celtic pitch? That was a different matter.

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It was rutted and uneven, the long - too long  - grass hiding at first glance how potholes and divots were scarring the surface.

Rotherham United, just back from a training week in Germany, mindful of the well-being of their players, mindful that the start of their League One campaign is only a couple of weeks away, had no choice.

Game off.

"It's hugely disappointing," said coach Matt Hamshaw. "We arrived home last night and were looking forward to a competitive 90 minutes.

Millers players head for the coach

"But we've looked at the pitch and we don't want to cause any unnecessary injuries at this stage of pre-season.

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"The pitch just isn't fit to play on. It's not nice for either club. Farsley will have been expecting a decent crowd here tonight.

"We're not trying to be 'Billy Big Shoes'. That's not the type of club we are. However, the welfare of our players has to come first."

Those players trooped back to their Wilfreda Beehive coach downcast and relieved at the same time. Centre-half Richard Wood, whose idea of a perfect game is to head the ball, head it again, then keep heading it, was maybe the only one wondering what the problem was.

Manager Paul Warne, along with the rest of the Millers contingent, had cut a concerned figure as he walked the pitch, barely believing it could be so bad at an outfit newly promoted to National League North and now only two rungs away from the Football League.

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Around 70 minutes before tonight's scheduled 7.30pm kick-off, he dragged himself into the clubhouse, politely informed home officials that he wasn't prepared to endanger his squad and apologised to the travelling Rotherham fans already enjoying their pre-match pints.

Breaking the news can't have been an easy job for the boss, but it was better than the one assigned to the poor soul at the car-park entrance whose task it was to give out explanations while turning away vehicle after vehicle.

The question has to be asked, why hadn't someone at Farsley stopped to think that the pitch might be an issue and warn Rotherham before people travelled around rush hour from South to West Yorkshire?

Yours truly interviewing a disappointed Richard Wood

Celtic, missing out on a big payday, declared on their Twitter page that the contest had been scrapped because of "unforeseen circumstances".

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The tweet on the Millers site was clearer: cancellation was due to "the playing surface posing a potential risk to player safety".

Warne said: "You can see that the club have done some work on the pitch over the summer and I am sure that it will be fit for purpose in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, tonight, it was not in a suitable state for either side."

I'd leapt the barrier and inspected the surface when I'd heard that an announcement to nobody's liking might be in the offing and was shocked by what I saw.

Wood, thinking of all those balls going unheaded, said: "It's not ideal. I'm disappointed we haven't played. But I've been on the pitch and not playing is the right decision.

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"We're tired from Germany. It's been a tough week. We've done nearly 80 kilometres of running and we got back late last night. Playing on a surface like this would have been inviting trouble."

Goalkeeping coach Mike Pollitt was despatched to nearby Bradford Park Avenue, the venue for another Rotherham friendly tomorrow, to check on the state of the pitch there.

Millers supporters stood in small groups, chatting, fed up but philosophical, contemplating an earlier drive home than they'd been expecting.

Those who'd made it out of the clubhouse and as far as the stand stepped over the hosepipe on their way out.

Drip, drip, drip. Elsewhere Rotherham had done their own risk assessment. Drip, drip, drip.