Northern Ireland v Russia World Cup qualifier postponed

Heavy snow in Belfast means the World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and Russia has been postponed.

Friday night's World Cup qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Russia has been postponed because of heavy snow in Belfast.

The Irish Football Association hopes the Group F game can be staged on Saturday at 15:00 GMT but more bad weather is forecast.

An update on the rearranged game will be provided at 10:30 on Saturday.

On Friday ground staff and volunteers spent hours attempting to clear the snow off the pitch.

The south Belfast stadium is among the more basic in international football and it does not have much in the way of defences to the elements.

It is the first time a competitive international fixture in Belfast has had to be called off because of the weather.

And Irish FA head of communications Geoff Wilson acknowledged that the prospects of the game taking place on Saturday "don't look very positive".

"There is a real willingness on both federations to play. But according to the weather forecast it is due to be bad for parts of tomorrow," added the Irish FA spokesman.

If the game does go ahead on Saturday, there will be concerns about the condition of the pitch for Tuesday's qualifier against Israel at the venue.

"That could cause issues with the pitch and the conditions for Israel but we have to take one game at a time," added Wilson.

As a result of the rearranged international, all Irish League matches scheduled for Saturday have been postponed.

The six Premiership games which were due to be staged have been rearranged for Saturday 30 March.

Question marks will naturally be raised over the likelihood of the World Cup game taking place on Saturday, with more bad weather expected through the night.

The Irish Football Association announced a briefing in the morning, during which more details will be provided.

IFA staff did their best to salvage the situation on Friday by shovelling snow from the pitch in grim conditions, but their efforts were in vain.

Windsor Park, home to Irish League outfit Linfield, is among the more basic on the international circuit and has little to no defence against the elements, such as under-soil heating.

The delay is likely to cause additional problems, with Northern Ireland due to play Israel in another Group F game at Windsor Park on Tuesday.

That match is now itself in some doubt, with the pitch highly unlikely to be in an acceptable condition should a game go ahead this weekend.

Russia, meanwhile, are due to play Brazil in a friendly at Stamford Bridge on Monday but now face the prospect of a one-day break between games.

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