The Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez admits he is concerned about the state of the DW Stadium pitch – but has warned his players they must adapt.
The surface at the ground the club share with Wigan Warriors has taken a battering in recent weeks due to poor weather and extra usage following the start of the new rugby league season.
Martinez's side host rivals Bolton Wanderers in a crucial Barclays Premier League relegation clash tonight and the Spaniard concedes the pitch is not conducive to the football he and new Bolton manager Owen Coyle might want to play. He insists though there can be no excuses with important points at stake.
"We are always trying to play the right way," Martinez said. "The pitch is probably not helping us now but we need to be able to adapt and make sure we are a bit ruthless and know how to get the points that are so vital. It is a concern, there is no point hiding it. I think it has had five games in 18 days.
"Any surface having that amount of games is going to suffer and the weather hasn't been too kind. All these aspects affect the pitch, but the pitch is the same for the two teams so it is not an excuse.
"We have got to make sure we adapt to it. The way we want to play, we could do with a good surface, but football is about adapting to the circumstances. We are going to do that."
While Martinez voiced his feelings on the pitch, it seemed the matter was not going to vex his Warriors counterpart Michael Maguire. When asked his thoughts yesterday, Maguire said: "It's pretty good to be honest. It looks all right to me."
Despite the pitch, Martinez feels his team must make the most of their home fixtures in the remainder of the campaign. Athletic going into the match just a point above the relegation zone and could drop into it if Bolton, two points behind them, pull off a win in the rearranged clash.
Wigan have been held to draw despite leading in their last two matches against Sunderland and Stoke and Martinez feels they have a good platform to build on. He said: "It is important to use the home advantage in every game we have left. Some people cannot see a positive after throwing away a lead but I was delighted with the way we reacted after conceding against Sunderland and Stoke.
"It was the opposition that had the momentum and in August, September, October I guarantee we would have lost those games. We have been performing well but not got the points we have deserved."
Coyle took charge at Bolton after the sacking of Gary Megson last month and Martinez can see similarities in the way the two neighbouring clubs operate. With the fixture having been postponed in December because of freezing weather, Martinez feels the match has the makings of a classic derby.
He said: "I feel Bolton are in a little bit of a similar situation to us – a change of manager and ideology. It is a big derby and a game both teams really need a good performance out of. It is as exciting as it can be in terms of the timing, the importance of the game and what it means for everyone. It is a great game to look forward to.
"We are all desperate to get out there because we feel in the last few games we haven't got the rewards our effort and attitude deserved."
Their in-form midfielder James McCarthy is rated 50-50 because of a hamstring injury but new signing Victor Moses is pushing for his first start.
Coyle believes the next month could shape his side's destiny. Bolton face Blackburn, Wolves, West Ham, Sunderland and Wigan again before March is out and Coyle knows it is an important spell in their bid to avoid relegation to the Coca-Cola Championship.
He said: "No matter who you play in this league you want to pick up points. However, this is a group of games with teams in and around us. It is up to us to try and maximise these opportunities. Nobody is going to hand it to us. We are going to have to be at our very best to get our rewards."