Shay turf war could finally be at and end

New drainage and grass for the Shay Stadium. Pictured is head groundsman Graham Osbourne
New drainage and grass for the Shay Stadium. Pictured is head groundsman Graham Osbourne

Shay groundsman Graham Osbourne believes improvements to the surface will finally put an end to FC Halifax Town’s pitch battle.

New drains will be installed under the surface while a state-of-the-art sprinkler system will also be in place.

New drainage and grass for the Shay Stadium

New drainage and grass for the Shay Stadium

Several Town games have had to be postponed last season, while they were forced to move an FA Trophy game with Dartford to Droylsden in February when the Shay pitch was deemed unplayable.

But Osbourne is now confident those days are gone.

He said: “It should solve the problem but like anything else it’s got to be used correctly.

“It’s got to have limits of what games it has on it, not just constant use.

“If you spent £1m on it and over-used it, it wouldn’t make a difference, you’d just waste your money.

“Especially with it being a dual-use ground, it’s got to be sensibly used and maintained.

“It’s still an ongoing thing but hopefully this should solve it now.

“Ideally you’d want eight to 10 weeks before a game is played on it but we’ve got five, plus the weather isn’t too warm at the moment, but it’s just a matter of letting it grow.

“It’s progressively got worse and worse so this is what’s been needed for a while now.”

A grid system of drains running every half-a-metre have been laid, with an additional 200 metres of 40mm drain-lines linking into the existing network.

The work should be completed in a couple of weeks.

Osbourne added: “We first shaved the top two or three inches off the pitch, which gets rid of all the unwanted grass.

“About 200 ton of unwanted material was stockpiled behind the goal.

“Then 150 tons of a reinforced sand with fibres was put onto the pitch which creates a more stable playing surface.

“That is then combined with the existing top soil on the pitch.

“A secondary drainage system was then installed width-ways which link into the main drains.

“A motorised spinning rake got the pitch level and got rid of any unevenness.

“There were then 60 tons of 70 per cent sand and 30 per cent soil put down on top of that before it was seeded and we put the covers on.

“Now the sprinkler system is being finished off and it will be linked to a new tank which holds 50 cubic metres of water which pumps the water to the 24 sprinkler heads.”

Osbourne admitted last season was a difficult time and that the pitch problems may have contributed to Town missing out on a play-off place.

“It was a nightmare,” he added. “Every time it rained or you looked at the weather forecast from January onwards was just a nightmare.

“It was really bad and it maybe even cost Halifax promotion.

“I think we had five games-in-hand at one stage and if we’d won them we could have been right up there.

“It just shows how important the pitch is really.”