‘Most puzzling, frustrating and contradictory decision I’ve seen in 40 years’ – AFC Portchester vice-chairman Moir on Wessex League abandonment at Christchurch

AFC Portchester vice-chairman Graeme Moir condemned the decision to abandon Saturday’s Wessex League Premier Division game at Christchurch as the most ‘puzzling, frustrating and contradictory’ he’s seen in four decades of being involved in football.

Sunday, 3rd October 2021, 1:18 pm
Conor Bailey in action for Portchester during their abandoned Wessex Premier League fixture at Christchurch. Picture: Daniel Haswell.

The Royals were leading 4-0 when referee Lewis Ward called an early halt to proceedings just after the hour mark at Hurn Bridge in the interests of player safety.

Moir was convinced the conditions were no different than the previous Tuesday when Portchester had hosted Horndean in another Wessex game where it rained continuously all evening.

And the former Petersfield Town vice-chairman was adamant he has seen non-league games completed on far more saturated and muddy pitches.

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Leading 3-0 at half-time, the Royals had extended their lead - Ryan Pennery netting his second on his first start for the club - before Ward abandoned the contest with the visitors almost certain to record a much-needed victory.

Video footage shows Pennery dribbling into the penalty area and rolling a shot across the keeper into the far corner with no signs of splashing water.

Recounting how Portchester’s match met a watery grave, Moir said: ‘The referee bounced the ball six times and five times it bounced straight back up. Then he found one area where it didn’t. Then he bounced it in a goalmouth and it didn’t really bounce back up.

‘There was no surface water - I’ve just watched the Pompey v Sunderland highlights and there were no areas where the ball was splashing like there was there.’

Writing on the Portchester website, Moir remarked: ‘In all my 40 years in football as a supporter, player of dubious talent, administration and reporter, I can’t think of a decision more puzzling, frustrating and just so contradictory in terms of the application of safety and common sense than that made by the referee to abandon this game.

‘If common sense and safety were such key factors in decision making at 4.10pm, why were they not applied in equal importance before 3pm both when players and officials had arrived at the ground and before they set off on their journeys? And again when the conditions in the second half were little different to what was experienced at kick-off time?

‘With the known weather conditions and the problems obtaining fuel at the moment, why weren’t those safety factors given greater consideration? In the context of the decision made, this should have led to a postponement before anyone left home on Saturday before the scheduled match.’

Moir told The News: ‘The (Christchurch) pitch was like a billiard surface compared to the pitches we used to play on.

‘I remember at Petersfield we put games on when others in the area were off. We took a bit of a gamble because we thought we could get a few more (spectators) in.

‘Both teams were trying to play football. To be fair to Christchurch, their players weren’t surrounding the referee trying to get the game called off.

‘The game will now be rescheduled for a midweek night in November where it will be cold and the pitch will probably be wetter but perceived to be in a better state to play on.

‘I feel sorry for the Christchurch groundsman. He said they had played on a far worse surface against Dulwich in the FA Cup last season.’

Moir added: ‘To draw a comparison, the pitch wasn’t an issue last Tuesday (against Horndean). The referee didn’t stop the game once to look at it. There was no way we would have wanted the game to be called off (because Portchester were losing).

‘I would feel the same way if we had been 4-0 down at Christchurch.

‘Why wait until around 4pm to apply the rules of player safety rather than taking them into account earlier?

‘It is frustrating, especially after the amount of football we’ve lost in the last two years.

‘After a couple of difficult results (losses to Moneyfields and Horndean) you want to get a win.’

Portchester’s game was one of three abandoned in the Wessex League Premier at the weekend.

Hamworthy were 5-0 up at Hamble when that fixture was called off at half-time, while Horndean were leading Blackfield & Langley 2-1 at Five Heads Park when their match was halted early.