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European Qualifiers Group F

Windsor Park clash called off

Friday night's World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and Russia has been called off after Windsor Park was blanketed in snow.

Last Updated: 22/03/13 at 16:03 Post Comment

Windsor Park: Strenuos efforts were made but Friday's fixture had to be post

Windsor Park: Strenuos efforts were made but Friday's fixture had to be post

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The match has been rescheduled for 3pm on Saturday but more bad weather is forecast and another postponement may be on the cards.

Snow covered the pitch overnight and continued to fall throughout the day, frustrating the efforts of Irish Football Association staff, who worked tirelessly in an attempt to try and clear the ground of settled snow.

The snow also forced the closure of the runway at George Best Belfast City Airport and there were concerns over the safety of fans travelling to the Northern Ireland match.

Norwegian referee Tom Hagen began a series of inspections at 10am but it always looked unlikely that the match would get the green light and the decision to postpone the fixture was made at 2.30pm.

More bad weather on the way

More bad weather is expected on Friday night and into Saturday, raising concerns about whether the match will be able to take place this weekend at all.

Officials will meet at 10.30am on Saturday morning and IFA head of communications Geoff Wilson said on Friday: "There has to be an attempt to play the game tomorrow, because FIFA rules say every effort has to be made to play the game the day after a postponement.

"We're looking to play the game tomorrow but we will have a briefing session at 10.30am and have another look at the pitch with the referee.

"We're open to the elements here and I think that, if you look at the elements right now, it probably doesn't look very positive. That being said, stranger things have happened.

"We're on Plan B and there could be a Plan C but, at the moment, we are focused on getting the game on tomorrow.

"There is a real willingness on both federations to play but, according to the weather forecast, it is due to be bad today and for parts of tomorrow."

Windsor Park, which is home to Irish League outfit Linfield, is among the more basic on the international circuit, and does not have any under-soil heating.

Northern Ireland are also due to host Israel on Tuesday but that game may also be doubtful, with the pitch not likely to be in a good condition if the Russia match goes ahead.

And Fabio Capello's Russia side are due to play Brazil in a friendly at Stamford Bridge on Monday, but now face the prospect of a one-day break between matches.

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