UPDATED: Controversial postponement angers Hatters

Referee Richard Martin made the controversial decision to call today’s game between Luton and Ebbsfleet off just 20 minutes before kick-off at Kenilworth Road, writes Mark Wood.

Monday, 31st December 2012, 11:16 am

Town boss Paul Buckle was unimpressed by the decision, while managing director Gary Sweet branded it ‘utterly ridiculous’.

Town boss Paul Buckle was unimpressed by the decision, while managing director Gary Sweet branded it ‘utterly ridiculous’.

Fleet boss Liam Daish had also been in favour of the game going ahead, but the official overruled both managers.

Buckle said: “Liam was up for it being played. We were up for it being played and I think you would have seen a decent game today.

“We’re in good shape at the moment and we were looking forward to it. You get a feel for the players and the players looked focused and confident because of our recent performance.

“We’re disappointed, they’re disappointed. You never really know what the other team are thinking. I suppose the bonus for Liam is they might be able to get some bodies in.

“They’ve got a couple of injuries and get some bodies in, but he certainly wasn’t telling the referee to call it off.”

On his reasons for calling it off, Buckle continued: “He went to the six-yard box and dropped the ball and said it wouldn’t bounce.

“But that’s normal at this time of the year, we not going to get a perfect pitch.

“As we saw at Newport and we had to play on that, that wasn’t ideal and I think that ice and a frozen pitch is a lot worse than a wet pitch.

“It’s not dangerous the pitch at all, I think his biggest concern was that it might deteriorate and might have to call it off during the game.

“The forecast actually suggests it’s going to clear up so I can’t understand it really.”

His decision was made all the more bizarre as the weather had eased when he made the late call, which was followed by blue skies and even sunshine.

The decision left Buckle mystified, saying: “I said to him earlier as long as the ball rolls so it can be, not a leveller, that’s no disrespect to Ebbsfleet, we want to play a fast game of football.

“So as long as the balls rolls we want it on and the ball was rolling.

“This pitch drains very well. I spoke to Dickie (groundsman Richard Bird) and he said if it stops the pitch will drain. The pitch drains very quickly.

“And already now I’m looking at the pitch and it looks perfectly playable. It’s hugely frustrating for me and the players because we are in really good shape.

“I picked the same team again today, we’ve had four good home wins and we were hoping to get a fifth today but it’s not to be.”

Sweet was in total agreement with his manager, saying: “Have you got your boots with you because I’d like to play on it, I wouldn’t mind.

“It’s an utterly ridiculous decision. The ref knows our views, knows my views.

“Both managers wanted to play it, both clubs wanted to play it. No reason at all.

“It’s 10 past three, it’s not raining, there’s even blue sky in the air. And that would have made a great spectacle today.

“We like a bit of festive football and we wanted to play it. I’m sorry for the supporters.

“It’s not our fault, we tried everything. Not that you can often persuade refs. But we tried everything to persuade the official to get the game on and get it going ahead.

“Because had he blow the whistle and kicked off we would have finished the game.

Martin refused to speak to the press after making his controversial ruling, which evidently angered many of Luton’s players as they were forced to trudge dejectedly from the field, while angry supporters also voiced their disappointment.

Buckle was particularly disappointed for Luton’s fans and again floated the idea of a Christmas break.

“Just now we’ve got a lot of angry fans asking why it’s off.

“It’s clearing up, yes we’ve had a downpour, but we’ve been here since 12 o’clock and trained on the pitch at 12 and walked through a few things as normal.

“The pitch was perfect at 12. Yes it got a little bit heavy, but the ref’s looked at it with myself and Liam at two o’clock and said we would look at it again at 2.30pm.

“For me it’s not deteriorated in that half an hour. Looking at the skies now I can see blue sky so it’s hugely disappointing he’s decided to call it off.

“I’m disappointed for them. I always mention the fans and I said this before about winter months. Sooner or later we’ve got to make a decision.

“I know the Premiership pitches are perfect. At our sort of level it’s unfair on everyone. There’s so much disruption and we’re facing a fixture pile-up now as well.

“It’s not healthy. For me now looking out at the pitch it could have been allowed a bit more time, but he wasn’t prepared to do that.”

The only change to Luton’s proposed line-up had come on the bench where JJ O’Donnell had been ruled out by an ankle injury and was replaced by Dan Walker.

And the Hatters are now facing a big fixture pile-up, with Buckle adding: “My head’s spinning with the rearranged fixtures. Kevan our secretary is doing a brilliant job with that.

“He keeps sending me emails telling me these days. All I’m interest in is the next game. Of course we are aware that that could cause problems.

“But at the same time if we can keep the players fit, if we can add some more bodies because we have got a lot of games, we will be fit and strong enough to see these games through.

“We need everyone on board and it’s going to make for a really exciting second half of the season.”


Hatters (4-3-3): Mark Tyler, Janos Kovacs, Alex Lawless, Jon Shaw, Scott Rendell, Jake Howells, Simon Ainge, Stuart Fleetwood, Arnaud Mendy, Ronnie Henry (C), Andre Gray. Substitutes: Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Greg Taylor, Matt Robinson, Dan Walker, Dean Brill.

Fleet (4-4-2): Preston Edwards, Craig Stone, Phil Walsh, Pail Lorraine (C), Liam Enver-Marum, Nathan Elder, Tom Phipp, Joe Howe, Neil Barrett, Liam Bellamy, Lanre Azeez. Substitutes: Ryan Blake, Lucas Menz, Jay Folkes, Ashley Carew, Giannoulis Fakinos.

Referee: Richard Martin (Weston-Super-Mare).

Assistant Referees: C Francis and G Sprague.

Fourth Official: A Serrano.