Rotherham United: Fixture congestion snowballs as weather hits home for first time

Weekend Snow Pics.....Rotherham's game against Exeter City called off
Weekend Snow Pics.....Rotherham's game against Exeter City called off

ROTHERHAM United face a busy final month of the season after yet another postponement.

If there was a trophy for games being called off then the Millers would probably end up as League Two champions this season!

The home game with Exeter City was Rotherham’s sixth postponement of the season, four of which have been weather-related, but was their

first one at New York Stadium.

It has all added to the burden of striving for promotion because those games then have to be fitted in during a midweek and, in the process, a number of the postponements have involved the Millers then making long away trips on a Tuesday night.

However, it will be opponents Exeter who are now condemned to a long midweek trek, and the rearranged date is expected to be confirmed in the next 24

hours. It seems almost certain to be on Tuesday, April 9. Rotherham already have a game on Tuesday, April 16 (away to Bradford City) and the only other ‘free’ midweek date is in the final week of the season. The Football League do not want clubs arranging to play in that final midweek.

They also leave it ‘spare’ just in case there are postponements in the final few weeks meaning a match would have to be squeezed in then ahead of the final Saturday, which is April 27 this year.

It all means a very busy final month of April with seven games scheduled in it.

Rotherham’s frustration over Saturday’s postponement was because the pitch at the New York Stadium would have been playable. It had been covered and, in fact, the previous day there had been very little snow on the covers while the car-parks were clear.

Exeter were told to travel and the club were fully confident the game would go ahead. However, the horrendous overnight snow and blizzard conditions were to change everything.

But even early on Saturday morning, despite conditions having worsened considerably overnight, the club refused to give in and by 8am they had put out a plea for people to help with snow-clearing. Fans turned up with snow shovels and wheelbarrows.

However, it soon became obvious that factors other than the pitch were going to thwart the club’s attempts to get the game on.

“As everyone knows, the overnight snow had put down a really thick covering and there was drifting in the car-parks and around the ground,” said the club’s media officer, Matt Young.

“Inside the stadium the snow had blown in and was lying many rows up in parts of the ground so, clearly, that was a safety issue which had to be taken into consideration.

“It was great to see supporters had battled through and were happy to try and get the game on and we were confident we could have done.

“But I think we all soon realised that there were other issues which would prevent it going ahead. In addition, it was still snowing and it was forecast to continue until the afternoon.”

Referee Scott Duncan had set off from the North-east on Friday lunchtime to overnight in Rotherham and he was at the stadium first thing on Saturday.

Club officials met with the Safety Advisory Group and the police who advised, for safety reasons, that there was no other decision but to call the game off which the club officially did, shortly before 10am.

Among the factors also considered was the difficulty that thousands of fans would have had simply trying to get to the game because of travel disruption and the extremely difficult driving conditions, particularly off the major routes.

The other Millers games to be off have all been away.

The first one, at Accrington in November, was called off less than an hour before kick off due to a freak rainstorm which flooded parts of the pitch.

Games at Bristol Rovers and Oxford United were also weather-hit and postponed. The one at Torquay in January was off because Rotherham were in the FA Cup third round while the game at Bradford City had to be rearranged because City were in the Carling Cup Final that weekend.

Rotherham’s next game is at home to AFC Wimbledon on Friday (3pm).

Another casualty was the Testimonial Dinner for Millers legend Paul Warne on Saturday night which had to be called off.

It was booked for New York Stadium but organisers took a decision on Saturday morning because of the conditions in the stadium car-park and the travel difficulties.

“We had people coming from various parts of the region, including travelling over from Lancashire, and it really wasn’t feasible to go ahead with it,” said Paul Wickson, one of Warne’s Testimonial Year Committee.

“It was very disappointing, obviously, but we will still be staging it and we will be looking to find another date.”

Former boss Ronnie Moore and his assistant, John Breckin ,were chief guests and a number of Warne’s former playing colleagues were due to join the near-300 diners who had booked for the event.