Pitch may cost us - Coppell

Press Releasein Football

Reading fear the Madejski Stadium pitch may not recover for at least another two months sparking fears their home form could suffer.

The surface was in its worst state for several years for the Championship fixture against Norwich City last weekend but the Royals overcame the conditions to win 2-0.

However, boss Steve Coppell does not expect it to improve much over the winter months and head groundsman Bruce Elliott is now making urgent repairs for the visit of Cardiff City on Boxing Day.

Before that, though, the pitch will come under heavy use again this Saturday when London Irish host Gloucester in a top-of-the-table clash between the Guinness Premiership rugby union sides.

Coppell explained: "I made a point in Saturday's programme notes thanking our groundsman, Bruce, and his staff for all their hard work.

"We had four games in eight days and some adverse weather for most of that. The fact the final game was on the back of continuous 24-hour rain didn't help. I admit, it didn't look great.

"Obviously there is no grass growth at the moment and the fear is the pitch will be affected for the next couple of months."

It was those four games in a little over a week which caused the most severe damage. They included an FA Youth Cup tie and two Championship games against Blackpool and Norwich, which was preceded by a London Irish European fixture less than 48 hours earlier.

The pitch was only relaid in summer 2007 at a cost of nearly £1 million and the surface, a mixture of synthetic fibres and grass, is designed to withstand a battering from both sports.

And as Irish recently penned a new deal to play all home matches at the ground until 2026, the problem is unlikely to go away quickly.

Coppell added: "Bruce is trying very hard to improve it and we're doing everything we can to protect the surface because we have an important game against Cardiff City on Boxing Day.

"But we also have to accommodate London Irish and, whether I like it or not, we have an obligation to them."

The worry now is that a muddy, uneven surface will negate any home advantage Reading might have over future opponents.

Coppell added: "It's a cause for concern but I'm not going to complain too much about it. It's the same for both teams but the fact is poor pitches lead to more even football matches."

Source:-The Reading Chronicle

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