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Newport have to play away in Vase
NEWPORT IoW have been forced to surrender home advantage in the FA Vase fifth round.
Dorset referee Mark Pottage had to postpone Saturday’s last-16 tie against Ascot United 90 minutes before kick-off because of a soggy area on the St George’s Park pitch, which turned out to be caused by a drainage problem.
The Islanders have already begun digging up the waterlogged 30 square foot zone, but it will not be ready in time to stage the rearranged tie this Saturday.
Port initially hoped to play it at Westwood Park, home of neighbouring Cowes Sports. But the Yachtsmen are unable to stage the game because they have committee members away, leaving Newport with no option but to switch the tie to the Ascot Racecourse headquarters of their Hellenic Premier opponents.
Newport secretary John Simpkins explained: “There’s an area of the pitch which is like a bog. We would have played on it in the old days, but they don’t allow it now.
“We’re gutted to have to change the fixture, but needs must.
“Our pitch is already being dug up with two trenches about a foot wide and new drains going in. We’ll put thick-cut turf on top and it should be ready to be played on again by February 23.
“We knew it was a drainage problem rather than rain because the rest of the pitch is okay.”
With Newport also in with a shout of the Sydenhams Premier Division title, they cannot afford their fixture backlog to get any longer.
“We’ve got to look at the bigger picture and get the Vase game played because we’ve still got 22 league games left,” said Simpkins. “The Wessex fixture secretary is already putting us down for Tuesday and Thursday matches in weeks to come. We can’t afford to miss another Saturday.
“The easiest thing now is to jump on a coach and go up to Ascot. We’re used to travelling in any case.
“But it’s a pity because it was a big occasion for the Island. Everyone you spoke to was coming to watch.”
Should Newport win at Ascot, they would face a far longer trek to County Durham in the quarter-finals.
Victory for Steve Brougham’s men would take them to Shildon. The mid-table Northern League Division One outfit were convincing 4-1 winners at Brantham Athletic on Saturday and have been installed by Bet Victor as 11/1 third favourites to lift the Vase “If we get there, I’m sure the lads will enjoy a weekend away,” said Simpkins. “A trip like that doesn’t happen every week and we’ll have a good time.”
Because of Newport’s pitch problems, tomorrow’s Sydenhams Premier fixture at home to Totton & Eling will be played at East Cowes Vics’ Beatrice Avenue home.
FA Vase quarter-final draw (ties to be played on Saturday, March 2): Runcorn Town or Walsall Wood on Hanworth Villa v Guernsey, Shildon v Newport IoW or Ascot Utd, Spennymoor Town v Gornal Athletic, Larkhall Athletic or Tunbridge Wells v Hadleigh Utd.