THERE were extraordinary scenes at The Lashmar on Saturday when a six-foot deep hole caused East Preston Football Club’s match with local rivals Littlehampton to be abandoned.
The County League Division 1 game was 15 minutes old when EP keeper Rui Buckland alerted referee John Walker to the foot-wide hole, which was just outside the penalty area nearest to the changing rooms.
Mr Walker called over both managers, before abandoning the game, which was 0-0 at the time.
It was unclear from the sidelines why the match had been called off at first but players, management and fans alike all suddenly realised why, when they got up close to the hole.
The problem came when a manhole cover was shattered, which caused the hole to appear on the pitch.
EP believe they may have to postpone Saturday’s home game with Loxwood until next mid-week.
As The Lashmar is owned by Arun District Council, EP cannot start work to repair the hole until they have permission from the council, although they do not think it will take too long to repair.
East Preston chairman Terry Doyle said: “At this moment in time, it looks as though we are going to have to postpone Saturday’s game until Wednesday.
“With Arun District Council out of office until Friday and it being their land, we can’t make a start at this moment in time.
“But we have met with the Sussex County League and, hopefully, an agreement can be reached.
“It appears the problem occurred as a manhole cover was shattered and we have the turf ready for repair.
“Luckily, the damage does not appear to be too much. It’s just really untimely but it’s something that we are hoping will not take long to repair.”
East Preston boss Sammy Donnelly admitted he had witnessed nothing like Saturday’s event in 40 years’ of management.
He said: “I think the main disappointment from my point of view is for the supporters, who have come along to the game.
“Everyone would have enjoyed their Christmas and then come out to watch a local derby, which is then called off just 15 minutes in.
“It’s something that I have never seen in all my time in football. I am just pleased that someone managed to spot it without anybody getting hurt because that could have caused one of the players a real problem.
“I felt both teams had made a bright start to the match and it could well have been a very good spectacle but it is what it is and, unfortunately, it had to be abandoned.”
Golds manager Mark Bennett was also amazed at what happened and said: “I’m not sure what to say, really. It is something that I have never seen before and probably will never see again.
“I was really disappointed when the game was called off but it was no one’s fault and there was nothing that could be done about it.
“We have been on a good run of form recently and now we will just look ahead to the games coming up in the new year.”
Littlehampton entertain Lancing at The Sportsfield on Saturday, with a 3pm kick-off.