Pittodrie great Willie Miller believes the threat of injury made postponing Aberdeen’s Premiership clash at Livingston yesterday the right decision.
However, the Gothenburg Great believes the call from referee Steven McLean should have been made far earlier, given how frozen parts of the Almondvale pitch were.
McLean conducted a pitch inspection just after 2pm ahead of the scheduled 4pm kick-off at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
Despite the monumental efforts of Livingston back-room staff over a 36-hour period to clear the pitch of snow, the fixture fell victim to the winter freeze.
Miller was inside the Tony Macaroni Arena in his role as a match pundit and witnessed McLean’s pitch inspection.
He insists patches of ice, particularly in a penalty area, made the surface too treacherous.
Miller said: “The pitch wasn’t playable.
“It looked like 95% of the surface was playable and, although I did not go on the surface, I watched the referee and some of the officials trying to turn on it.
“I could see there were certain areas on the pitch that were rock hard.
“They had thrown salt on it, but it didn’t make any difference.
“The referee then deemed it dangerous for the players and I agree with him.
“There were areas where players would be playing on an artificial surface that were good, then moving on to areas that weren’t,
“Anything can happen then.
“Players could lose their footing, fall, hit their head.”
Heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures in West Lothian over the previous two days left Livingston with a mammoth task of clearing the surface.
On a six-game winning streak, Livingston were desperate for the fixture to go ahead.
Livingston’s ground-staff mobilised and battled for 36 hours in the fight play the game.
Manager David Martindale and his eight-year-old daughter also pitched in.
The ground-staff were bolstered by contractors, who were brought in and worked until 1.45am on the morning of the game.
At 7am on match-day, the Livi staff were back at the stadium to continue the back-breaking battle to clear the pitch.
Huge banks of snow were piled up on the perimeter of the pitch, but the playing surface was clear.
However, due to the plummeting temperature, which was minus two at the time of the pitch inspection, frozen areas of the pitch had failed to thaw.
Miller said: “I talked with the SPFL match observer and the position was that the majority of the park was in good condition.
“However, there were patches in both halves that were solid.
“It looked as though one of the halves that hadn’t seen the sun was worse than the other.
“There was a patch, just inside the penalty box, where you are liable to have a lot of players at set-pieces.
“You cannot take the chance that players could get injured on those frozen areas.”
Livingston installed their MX Elite 50 artificial surface in summer 2018.
A third of the 12 Scottish Premiership clubs utilise artificial pitches, as Kilmarnock and Hamilton also have them installed.
One of the arguments for artificial pitches is they can survive extreme weather such as sub-zero temperatures to avoid postponement.
Miller insists the failure of the clash with Aberdeen to beat the winter snap is proof artificial surfaces are not infallible.
He said: “It didn’t cross my mind that the game would be put off because it is an artificial surface.
“I thought these pitches dealt with the snow much better.
“It is a warning about artificial pitches that you have to be aware it isn’t the panacea that people think it is in terms of getting games on.
“This is an example of that.
“It was minus-five in Livingston the night before the game and they had cleared the snow off the pitch.
“Livingston put a lot of effort into trying to shift the snow and it was piled up all around the perimeter of the pitch.
“They did their bit, but couldn’t shift the ice patches that have congregated in dangerous areas inside the penalty box.
“The effort has been there, but it was fruitless as the residue of snow that was left on had frozen and they couldn’t shift it.”
Should game have been put off earlier?
Traditionally clubs issue an SOS to supporters to help move snow – but that was ruled out due to lockdown restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
It was left to the ground staff to take on the back-breaking work of clearing the pitch
McLean postponed the game just 100 minutes before the scheduled kick-off.
Livingston insist they remained in constant contact with the Dons, who were happy to travel south in the knowledge the game could fall victim to the winter freeze.
Aberdeen were in East Lothian when the game was postponed, having travelled down the night before to stay in a hotel.
Although the team were not at the stadium when McLean confirmed the postponement, some club officials were present at the Tony Macaroni Arena
Miller said: “Although the referee made the right decision it should have been made earlier.
“The Aberdeen team will already have travelled down, so that will be hugely disappointing.
“To leave it so late in the day is frustrating and, even though there are no fans at games, the opposing team has to be taken into consideration.
“A decision needed to be made earlier than a couple of hours before kick-off.”
A revised date for the postponed fixture has yet to be confirmed.
Aberdeen already have a rescheduled match following a postponement due to the Covid-19 crisis, when they play Celtic at Parkhead on Wednesday, February 17 (7pm).
Miller said: “It is not ideal to have to now reschedule a match in a season where there is fixture congestion.”