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Jan 19, 2010

Victory, Reds assured over pitch quality

Etihad Stadium ground staff have replaced the patchy sections of the ground's playing surface and assured Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United the pitch will be safe for Saturday night's A-League game.

A stage installed on the ground for a new year's eve dance party left the pitch patchy for last Saturday night's game between the Victory and Perth, and worried the Glory so much they wanted the game cancelled.

But ground staff expect to have finished replacing the affected sections - a strip running the length of the pitch and another area on the halfway line - by Wednesday, and are confident the new turf will give in time for the game.

Glory coach David Mitchell said after his side's 6-2 defeat he wanted the game cancelled because of the risk his players would be injured, but stressed the shoddy surface had no impact on the way his side played.

Mitchell also claimed the referee was unhappy with the state of the pitch, but that "pressure applied from somewhere above" forced the game to go ahead.

Etihad Stadium spokesman Bill Lane said on Tuesday the surface would not pose any concerns to the Victory or United.

"All we can say is that aesthetically, the surface will look better than it did on Saturday night, and it will be safe and stable," Lane said.

A Victory spokesman said the club had had no concerns with the surface, and were hopeful of training at the ground on Friday.

Adelaide football director Michael Petrillo said United would not get a chance to train on the ground before the game, but were confident the surface would be up to standard.

"Obviously you'd like to see it in better shape, but I'm sure Melbourne and the stadium management will see that it will be safe to play on and up to standard," he said.

"We don't want to just focus on the state of the pitch - it's the same for both sides - and we've got to try to concentrate on getting a result."

The heatwave that hit Melbourne early in the year prevented ground staff from replacing patchy sections because it would not have taken to the existing turf in time.

Rain in Melbourne on Monday also worked against ground staff, as it meant the stadium roof had to be closed, which prevented any natural sunlight getting in.

Etihad Stadium has had its share of turf-related problems over the years in both the AFL and A-League.

AFL players have been critical previously of shifting turf and a hard surface during the winter.

In the A-League last year the Victory and the Brisbane Roar refused to play at the stadium until ground staff removed traces of glass from the surface, also following a new year's eve party.

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