Referee defends decision to abandon


Referee Graham Poll last night defended his decision to abandon Manchester City's English League Cup game against Ipswich after 21 minutes.

His decision prompted a crescendo of jeers around Maine Road with the last kick of the ball being Paul Dickov's equaliser. He cancelled out Marcus Stewart's opener for Ipswich after just four minutes.

The irony was that the rain was easing at the time of the abandonment and the quarter-final will now be played next Tuesday. Torrential rain half an hour before the start left the pitch waterlogged.

Poll said: "It was tough decision to make but at 7.30 the pitch was playable. I was happy to give it a try. I wanted to give it 15 minutes but in fact we played just over 20.

"The players from both sides were unhappy and telling me so. The ball was sticking and I was concerned for their safety.

"Safety has to be our number one priority and I was concerned there was still a lot of surface water.

"The Cup is an important competition with qualification for Europe at stake and I would have hated it if the game had been decided on a freak goal."

Both managers agreed with Poll's decision to call the match off. City's Joe Royle said: "It would be very easy to condemn the referee but I am not going to argue. It was a hard decision to make and I have every sympathy with the referee."

Ipswich's George Burley said: "The conditions were impossible and dangerous. I have every sympathy for our fans, who have made a long journey, but safety of the players has to come first."

The Crystal Palace-Sunderland match also fell victim to the weather - it was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.

Sunderland will give all fans who travelled a free ticket for their FA Cup thirdround clash against the same opposition on January 6th. Nearly 2,000 supporters made the journey to London.

Meanwhile, in the only League Cup game completed last night Birmingham beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-0. Danny Sonner helped sink his former club with the opening goal as Birmingham stormed into the semi-finals for the second time in five seasons.

Sonner, a free-transfer signing from Hillsborough in the summer, had been ruled out with a hamstring problem the day before the game by manager Trevor Francis. But he was pressed into service for the home side, who were badly hit by injuries, and Birmingham never looked back after his 27th-minute header had broken the deadlock.

That took the wind out of Wednesday's sails after a promising opening and Dele Adebola added the second goal at the start of the second period.

To add to Wednesday's misery their manager, Paul Jewell, was banished from the dugout for encroaching on the pitch to protest about the booking of Andy Booth. Over-fussy referee Jeff Winter also booked nine players.