MANSFIELD Town are waiting anxiously on the weather ahead of their massive FA Cup third round home tie with Liverpool on Sunday (4pm).
The One Call Stadium pitch was waterlogged and in a dreadful state last weekend when the visit of Grimsby Town was postponed after a morning inspection.
And, with the forecasters suggesting more rain will fall this week, there are fears the Liverpool game could be postponed or take place on a poor surface.
So the ground staff now face a race against time and the elements to try to provide a surface suitable for Stags to take on some of the best players in the world in one of the biggest games in the club’s history.
“The pitch did take a lot of stick against Alfreton on Boxing Day and it is hard for it to recover with all the rain,” said manager Paul Cox.
“The assessor in the stand said to me he was surprised the game actually finished as the ball wasn’t moving in some places.
“Players like Louis Briscoe and Lindon Meikle just couldn’t run with it.
“We want to have a full squad, all looking sharp, and a decent surface for the Liverpool game.
“We want to be be able to give the best account of ourselves that we can in front of a worldwide TV audience.”
The Grimsby postponement meant an increase in Stags’ baclog of games.
But Cox said that, if his side are winning games, playing Saturday and Tuesday every week could yet be a boon.
He said: “We are getting a massive backlog of games to be played. But sometimes that can be a positive.
“We did that at Eastwood a couple of years back and did well.
“Sometimes these boys prefer playing games, as long as we don’t get a spate of injuries as our squad is not as big as it probably should be at the moment.”
Cox was left a disappointed man on Saturday as the Stags wanted to get the Boxing Day 2-1 home defeat by Alfreton Town out of their system quickly.
“On Friday we thought the game was in doubt,” said Cox. “But there were strong overnight winds and no more rain, so when I left my house on the morning for the pitch inspection I was quite optimistic about us playing.
“But the water is just not draining away. If you throw a ball up it just won’t bounce.
“The forecast for later was torrential rain so there was little option.
“All we can do now is hope for Sunday. The newspaper front page this morning said New Year is set to be a wash-out and beyond, so you start to worry about the Liverpool game.
“I just have to try to keep the lads switched on and get rid of some of that rustiness we showed on Boxing Day, which was our first game for a while.
“We can run as much as we want, but it is nothing like playing a competitive game.
“Against Alfreton I thought we looked fit but lacked that sharpness you can only get from playing. This happened the same time last year when we had two or three weeks off and then went to Newport and were awful.
“I have started ringing round clubs and asking them if they want to play some competitive games on plastic pitches over the next couple of weeks to try to get us sharp.
“Playing against each other when Hyde was off last week did us no good really. We need it to be more competitive, though without any silly tackling.”
Cox added: “We are still in a fabulous position for success in the league and we also have the big cup game coming up.
“So we have got make sure we are geared up and sharp.”
Supporters are forewarned there will be no access to the One Call Stadium on Sunday via the Portland Retail Park.