Portsmouth Women: The team who have not played a league game since November

By Tom GarryBBC Sport
Jay Sadler
Jay Sadler's Pompey have won four of their seven league games this term but have five games in hand

Having one game postponed is frustrating enough for players, coaches and fans, but what about more than a dozen in just half a season?

On Sunday, Portsmouth Women had a match called off for the 14th time this campaign, and the 12th time where it was related to an unplayable pitch.

The third-tier club's latest fixture cancellation - which was supposed to be a League Cup tie at home to neighbours Southampton - came four days after a Hampshire Cup tie against Winchester was called off for a second time, following a pitch inspection more that 24 hours before the scheduled kick-off.

Fixture frustration has been nothing new for Pompey, who have not played a league fixture since 24 November, leaving them with as many as six games in hand on their league rivals in the National League Southern Premier Division.

"If we turn up and a game is on, it's a bit more of a surprise for us," Portsmouth manager Jay Sadler told BBC Sport.

"It is a burden on fans. We want to build an attendance and having a solid set of games helps build the fanbase.

"It's very hard as the girls and the staff put all the effort in to train during the week and then all that planning goes out the window."

Stay at home or move away? The choice facing Pompey

Pompey play at PMC Stadium, the home of non-league men's club Baffins Milton Rovers, but the pitch - near to Langstone Harbour and Farlington Marshes - has struggled with drainage problems this term.

Of their 12 games called off over pitch issues, nine have been at home, with Baffins Milton's ground waterlogged.

"The weather down on the south coast has been atrocious," continued Sadler, who has been in charge of the team since November 2016.

"It's very difficult. You can't help the weather but we do need to start getting these games on. The league obviously aren't too impressed.

"Prior to coming under the umbrella of the men's club in 2018, we played at 14 different home venues. Since having our home base, our attendances have grown, so we want to stay within the city of Portsmouth and have a central hub.

"But unfortunately now we're probably going to have to look elsewhere, because it is also affecting Baffins Milton. Between us we've got to play about 20 league games in around 15 weeks, plus cup ties."

On 14 November, Pompey advertised five upcoming fixturesexternal-link on social media, but none of them ended up taking place on the scheduled days because of rearranged games and postponements.

The problems mean the club are now set to go at least 11 weeks without a league game before facing Hounslow this Sunday.

Before that they will now try to play their cup tie against the Saints on Wednesday - but have moved it to Gosport Borough's Privett Park.

Portsmouth Women
Portsmouth finished eighth in England's third tier Southern division last season

"We've been fortunate that local teams have helped us with friendlies, just to keep the match fitness up," Sadler added.

"But we have to discuss a plan B. We've got a fantastic link with Baffins Milton. They're really lovely people there, and we want to continue that link, but we've still got to play 15 league games.

"The alternative venues we've put forward, they've been rejected because they don't meet the league's stadium criteria.

"There are a number of local teams where the pitches are holding up, like Gosport, Portchester and Bognor Regis, but the aim is to try to keep the team in the city for the local fans.

"When you see the amount of money that's being bandied about the men's Premier League, you look at that asking: 'Where is that being filtered in to grassroots, non-league and women's football?'

"These girls aren't asking for a lot. They're not asking for equal pay or anything like that. They're just asking to be treated fairly and be able to play the sport they love.

"The Women's Super League is unbelievable, but don't forget us. We're still here. We don't want the margins getting too big. We've all got ambitions of getting to the top."

Portsmouth's postponed fixtures so far this season

1 SeptCardiff (a)LeagueInternational call-ups
29 SeptGillingham (h)LeaguePitch failed 10:00 BST inspection
13 OctLeyton Orient (a)League CupPitch failed 09:45 BST inspection
27 OctYeovil (h)LeaguePostponed over two hours before kick-off
3 NovPlymouth (h)LeaguePostponed the day before the game
17 NovWarsash Wasps (h)Hampshire CupWarsash withdrew from competition
1 DecLeyton Orient (h)FA CupPostponed over pitch
15 DecCrawley WaspsLeague CupPostponed over pitch
12 JanWatford (a)LeaguePostponed upon arrival
16 JanWinchester (h)Hampshire CupPostponed the day before the game
19 JanCardiff (h)LeaguePostponed over pitch
26 JanGillingham (h)LeaguePitch ruled unplayable five mins before KO
30 JanWinchester (h)Hampshire CupPostponed the day before the game
2 FebSouthampton (h)League CupPostponed on morning of game

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