Storm Dennis 1, Sport in Sussex 0 ... and the fixture headaches get worse for football, rugby and hockey teams

Decimated. It’s about the only word that does justice to the effect Storm Dennis had on Sussex’s sporting programme at the weekend.

Pagham FC - and this pitch actually had a game played on Saturday! Picture: Roger Smith

Very few fixtures were played across the county’s many football, rugby and hockey leagues - and those that did somehow go ahead were played in awful conditions ranging to very wet to very windswept, mostly both.

Football was hard hit and it’s far from being the first weekend this winter when more games have been off than on in this part of the world.

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Brighton didn’t have a game scheduled for last weekend - their mid-winter Premier League break having been perfectly planned - and Crawley Town got their pitch in playable condition for their League Two encounter with Carlisle, which finished 0-0, to be declared on.

A soggy scene at Bognor RFC / Picture: Kate Shemilt

But you didn’t have to go far down the leagues to find teams unable to play - including plenty who, although they possess artificial pitches, decided the general weather forecast for Storm Dennis wreaking havoc was enough to warrant early calling-off of matches.

One such club was Eastbourne Borough of National League South, who acted as early as Friday afternoon, saying: “This Saturday’s scheduled home game with Wealdstone is OFF. Following discussions with the National League, opponents Wealdstone FC, and referee Rob Whitton, EBFC must announce the postponement of tomorrow’s game.

“The decision is of course regretted, but we are sure you will understand that it is unavoidable in the interests of safety. Apologies to all, and we look forward to welcoming the Stones at a later (and less tempestuous) date.”

Plenty of other clubs were wavering on Friday but left it until Saturday to make their final decisions. Whether more should have acted earlier is a matter for debate.

Oaklands Park, Chichester - another unplayable ground / Picture: Kate Shemilt

In the Isthmian premier division, Worthing were the only Sussex side to play, but Bognor, Horsham and Lewes were all kicking their heels after postponements - with Horsham’s match at Leatherhead being called off only an hour or so before the scheduled kick-off.

In the Isthmian south-east division the keenly-anticipated clash between in-form Chichester City and leaders Hastings was another fixture to go on Friday, while East Grinstead were also action-less, but Burgess Hill and Three Bridges, who played each other, were in action along with Whitehawk.

The Southern Combination League’s top three divisions had very few games on – the exceptions being Alfold v Eastbourne United, Lancing v Horsham, Pagham v Peacehaven, AFC Varndeanians v Billingshurst, Copthorne v Rustington and Montpelier Villa v Brighton Electricity.

Groundstaff whose games survived on grass deserve high praise.

Local leagues across West Sussex, Mid-Sussex and East Sussex leagues were, as you’d expect, were also badly hit.

Rugby matches often go ahead in conditions that defeat footballers but the rain and the threat of Storm Dennis forced some to give up on hopes of playing.

Among them were Bognor RFC, who were managing to take the positives when they tweeted: “Unfortunately due to Storms Dennis and Ciara not wanting to celebrate Valentine’s there will be NO RUGBY at Bognor RFC this weekend. Bar is open Saturday from 2pm... every cloud!”

Hockey clubs had to take similar action to keep players at home, with the difficulties of travelling as much a problem as any waterlogged pitches in forcing their hand.

Sunday was as bad as Saturday, which meant ladies’ and junior football suffered almost a complete wipeout.

Of course all the postponements, in any sport, merely add to headaches for league officials and club secretaries across our grass-roots sport communities in trying to fit called-off games into what remains of their seasons. They were already starting to struggle before Ciara and Dennis loomed into view.

A good start would be an immediate improvement in the weather, but we won’t hold our breath.