Football: Plymouth foiled by freeze

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PLYMOUTH ARGYLE'S trip to Ipswich Town became the first victim of football's weekend FA Cup programme yesterday, with more games likely to suffer postponement after pitch inspections this morning.

The match referee, Mike Reed, travelled from his Birmingham home to inspect the Portman Road pitch and found part of it frozen. Rather than wait for a thaw, Reed called off the game to save Plymouth supporters a 600-mile round trip.

Among clubs having pitch inspections today are Bury, who fear their second-round replay with Wigan at Gigg Lane could be off. The winners are due for a third-round trip to Manchester United on Tuesday and if the game does not go ahead the FA could well tell Bury to take up United's offer of using the heated pitch at Old Trafford to play Wigan.

The other match the FA is particularly keen to see resolved is at the City Ground tomorrow where Nottingham Forest face Southampton. Forest are through to the Coca-Cola Cup quarter-finals and face a trip to Scarborough or Arsenal on 13 January. Whatever happens, the midweek Coca-Cola Cup ties will go ahead as planned.

On the Barclays League front, today's Second Division game between Stoke City and Exeter City is off.

Frozen pitches put paid to five of rugby league's seven New Year's Day fixtures and today's rugby union match between Rugby and Harleqins. Leicester took steps to safeguard this afternoon's game against Leeds by switching to the Yorkshire club's Chandos Park ground.

Racing lost yesterday's meetings at Cheltenham and Leicester. Today's fixture at Nottingham also failed an inspection, but Ayr, Lingfield and Newbury looked to have escaped.

Richard Pridham, clerk of the course at Newbury, reported no problems at the Berkshire track which is due to stage the valuable Mandarin Chase meeting. 'There is no frost in the ground at all and the forecast is good. No problems are expected,' he said.