0 Torquay United groundsman Ralph working to head off pitch battle

torquay No members of Torquay United's staff will be busier over Christmas and the NewYear than groundsman Chris Ralph and assistant Ashley Barr.

They must have the Plainmoor pitch ready for three home games in the space of ten days.

It's a schedule which, if the clock was turned back 12 months, could cause major problems.

But this time Ralph says: "The pitch can take the rain much better than last year, so we should be fine."

A series of postponements, notably a home Boxing Day derby against Exeter City, cost United dear last season.

But Ralph, who'd only taken on the job last November, masterminded a programme of improvement work through the summer - to break up a layer of compacted material, instal new drainage and reseed the pitch.

"Last Wednesday we had 35 millimetres of rain - that's nearly one-and-a-half inches - in the space of five or six hours," he said.

"We could have played a game of football on it the next morning, no problem - we probably couldn't have done that last year.

"Anything that fell on the pitch last year literally sat on top. It was a massive problem.

"But the surface is draining now.

"We drilled drainage slots and filled them with sand, which is working well.

"There is still a fair amount of sand near the surface, which means that the pitch does cut up when it's soft.

"That will improve and firm up in time, and it's still an improvement on the way things were."

After Bristol Rovers visit this Boxing Day, Ralph and Barr will effectively have two days to get the pitch ready for the home derby against Exeter City on Sunday, December 29.

Then they'll start looking ahead to Morecambe on home the following Saturday, January 4.

"There's a lot of checking on weather forecasts going on, and we're going to be in at work almost every day," said Ralph, who was the head greenkeeper at Newton Abbot's Hele Park Golf Centre before he joined United.

"But we're much more optimistic about things than we were a year

Read more: http://www.torquayheraldexpress.co.uk/Groundsman-Ralph-working-head-pitch-battle/story-20368099-detail/story.html#ixzz2orD136rX

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