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‘Begging bowl’ Barnsley clubs fight to complete seasons

THE COUNTY Senior League season will go on for ‘as long as it takes’ with several Barnsley clubs still trying to fit in up to ten games due to major problems with their pitches.

Premier League clubs North Gawber, Wombwell Main and Houghton Main have been unable to play on their waterlogged home pitches for almost all of the season.

They each have huge backlogs of fixtures to fit in in the final weeks of the campaign and are having to play at alternative grounds, often for fees of about £300.

All three are in the Premier Division relegation battle.

League secretary Paul Kay said: “We’re supposed to play until May 13 but, in these circumstances, I am just planning to go for as long as it takes.

“We’re not going to punish any club for not finishing by a certain date.

This is a unique situation and rainfall between November and March has been the highest since records began in the 1830s. Clubs in higher leagues with bigger budgets are also struggling.

“We’re allowing clubs to reverse games to the opposite grounds, play at grounds that wouldn’t normally meet our ground-grading standards, and be more flexible with kick-off times and dates so they can find a pitch.

“We’ve offered loans to cover pitch hire which can be paid back over a couple of seasons. Clubs who have nearly finished have said those clubs with a lot of games left can play at their ground for no cost. Any dead rubbers for mid-table teams, we could call them 0-0 draws like we have in the past.

“We will continue to assess the situation on a weekly basis and support the clubs who are struggling to fulfil fixtures.”

Gawber have ten games to play, seven of which are at home.

They have not played at their Woolley MW ground for more than five months since November 11.

Gawber chairman Paul Tindale said: “It’s ridiculous.

“A lot of pitches in Barnsley are built on clay so, depending on drainage, they are in a very bad state after one of the wettest winters we’ve had. We spend a lot of money trying to make the pitches as good as they can be.

“They often look as grassy and green as ever but, as soon as you walk on them, water comes over your toes.

“The FA should have put more money. into grassroots.

“We had to fund-raise £5,000 for a tractor and a lot of professional footballers get that in a week.

“They expect small clubs to magic money out of thin air. Some of our junior teams are going to struggle to finish the season and I think our first team might too. Any sort of rain at the moment makes the pitch unplayable.”

Houghton have seven games to play.

Houghton’s joint-manager Adrian Barnard said: “We feel we have probably the best pitch in Barnsley but it’s just unplayable because of the volume of rain.

“We are more or less watching the weather rather than picking a team.

“We’re going around with a begging bowl just trying to play wherever possible. We still have seven home games to play and we desperately need a week without rain.

“We’re due to play three games a week until mid-May, around our jobs.

“We would like to think we will complete all our games but it potentially might not happen.

“We can play our home fixtures away but, in a relegation battle against teams around us, we don’t really want to give them that advantage.”

Gawber beat Houghton 4-0 on Monday at Highstone Road in Worsbrough.

Houghton Main lost 4-2 to Denaby Main on Wednesday.

Gawber lost 3-1 to Hepworth on Saturday.

Wombwell Main lost 5-2 to South Elmsall United Services at Hampden Road in Mexborough.

Main lost 4-0 to Hepworth United on Wednesday in Mexborough.

Houghton are second-bottom, four points from safety, while Gawber are third-bottom on goal difference. Wombwell Main are three points and three places clear of safety.

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