Ascot United Vase adventure takes a Newport twist
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Unplayable: The scene upon arrival at Newport Isle of Wight's pitch on Saturday. Pic by Shakila Barabhuiya
THEY came, they saw, they left - without so much as a ball being kicked.
What was was supposed to be the biggest day in Ascot United's history, ended up being memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Players and supporters were fuming on Saturday after a 170-mile round trip to the Isle of Wight proved to be a wasted journey as their FA Vase fourth round match was called off late on.
A coach left Ascot at 8.30am, having been assured that the Newport pitch had passed the morning inspection.
They arrived at St George's Park at 1pm, only for the match to be called off half an hour later due to a waterlogged pitch.
Referee Mark Pottage, who had already inspected the pitch earlier, postponed the game, deeming the surface 'unplayable' and unsafe for the players.
Luckily, the Yellamen managed to get an early ferry back to Berkshir,e but that was scant consolation for what they had to endure and the expense the club had incurred.
To compound Ascot's frustrations, club chief believe the game should have been postponed before they had left Berkshire.
Speaking exclusively to the News assistant manager Paul McGrotty said: "I think it should have been cancelled in the morning or the night before the game.
"It's just disappointing, not just for the players but for the whole club - the preparation that's gone into it and the people coming to watch.
"We wanted to play, there's no way we all wanted to make this journey and not play but the referee called it off and we agreed with that decision."
Commenting on the condition of the pitch, he said: "The bad area didn't turn bad over a few hours, it had been bad for a long time.
"I've never seen anything like that on a football pitch. Your foot literally sank.
"The middle area was just about playable though it had surface water, but in the area with the covered part, you just couldn't stand up, it was crazy.
"The ball could run but it would never bounce. For safety reasons, you couldn't play on that."
The club spent in excess of £1400 arranging the trip so have applied for compensation from the Football Association, who are considering the application.
Steve Cox, ex-Finchampstead manager in 2010/11, who now helps with Ascot's reserves, said: "I think it's very sad that the biggest day in Ascot United's history has been ruined by outside
"I know the other club could have avoided this happening to us. Clubs like Ascot shouldn't be put in this situation, £1400 is a lot of money for a club to waste."
ASCOT United will have to travel more than 500 miles if they progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Vase.
The draw for the next round was made on Monday and they will face Northern League Division One side Shildon AFC should they beat Newport Isle of Wight this Saturday.
The trip to County Durham would be a 540-mile round journey for the Yellamen with the tie being played on March 2.
Assistant manager at Ascot, Paul McGrotty, said: "It's a hell of a journey to Shildon and if we're going to do well, we're certainly doing it the hard way.
"If we get to the quarter-finals, whoever we play will be hard."
It will be a tough trip for the Yellamen as Shildon come with a good pedigree, having beaten Brantham Athletic 4-1 to get to the fifth round.
They also travelled to Bristol-based Bitton in the previous round, winning 2-0.
The bookmakers have Shildon down as third favourites to win the Vase with odds of 6/1, while Ascot are 33/1.
However, the Yellamen have done well away from home and have won four of their seven away ties and conceded just twice along the way.
Manager Jeff Lamb added: "We've done quite well on the road in the Vase, so there's that to think of."