By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC manager Steve Harmison gave his full backing behind Lucy Oliver’s decision to call off Wednesday night’s Ebac Northern League first division derby game between Morpeth Town and Ashington at Craik Park. As the players warmed up, the match referee gave the thumbs down for the eagerly anticipated clash five minutes before the scheduled 7.30pm kick off, and afterwards Mrs Oliver said: “The pitch wasn’t safe – and the safety of the players remains paramount.” It was a decision which was fully endorsed by Harmison: “It was the right decision and I will stick up for the referee,” he said. “I’m disappointed, Nicky Gray the Morpeth manager is disappointed and could the decision have been made sooner? Possibly - but I’m personally not bothered whether the game is called off at 6pm or 7.25pm. The more and more the players were running around warming up, the worse the pitch was becoming. I can put up with the last ten minutes of a game where a pitch cuts up but tonight’s surface wasn’t fit to play football on. In the right hand corner where my lads warmed up, I wore trainers – and they came off twice. It would probably have suited us against a very good passing Morpeth side and now we will have to come back here when the pitch is in better condition.” The Woodhorn Lane boss continued: “This season I’ve had three of my players ruled out long term suffering with a cruciate knee ligament injury; a broken knee cap and a torn achilles. Two of them were from the pitch, the other an impact injury and those lads have spent nearly three months out of work. What we have got to remember is that this is part time football and the days we live in now is about job security. Players work hard and football is a hobby and form of enjoyment and arguably jobs in the North East are few and far between. If someone had picked up an injury tonight on that surface and as a result it led to them losing their job, then that is not right. It was unfortunate for all concerned including the paying public but I personally believe the right decision was made.” He went on: “I was 100 per cent behind Lucy’s decision. Once players were warming up and before any tackles were made, Lucy has been able to see the true state of the pitch and realised that it was becoming unplayable.” He added: “I’m so frustrated because this would have been a good game for us and arguably it hurts us more than it hurts Morpeth because they play football nicely. They are a good side and the pitch in a few weeks time will probably suit them better than what tonight would have done. Freak accidents happen but the decision to call the game off prevented the possibility of things happening.”
This was the second time this season that Lucy Oliver had called the game off between the clubs. The original date for the clash was Boxing Day but after inspecting the Craik Park pitch on Christmas Day, the Bedlington-based official declared it unfit.