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Celtic's title ambitions are put on ice Freeze may work to Rangers' advantage

Ken Gallacher

28 Dec 1995

HEARTS manager Jim Jefferies admitted last night that there is little hope of his side's game against Celtic taking place at Tynecastle on Saturday.

The freeze is something which can surely sabotage Celtic's hopes of ending Rangers' domination in the premier division but Jefferies has no answer to offer for his club's problems.

He said: "We will do everything possible to get the game on but, obviously, the covers we have to protect the park are not going to be as effective as undersoil heating.

"We will keep the covers on, but they are only going to help when the temperature remains above minus four.

Once they get into the figures we have been suffering then there is nothing that we can do.

"I cannot see us getting the game on but we will be trying our best to have it played." Celtic, meanwhile, can only wait and hope as the adverse weather conditions could wreck their title ambitions.

If Rangers push still further ahead at the weekend then that would be bad enough.

But if Celtic have to go into next Wednesday's Old Firm clash without Peter Grant and John Hughes, because of suspension, and without having played a game for 16 days then the dice would be loaded against them.

It is not a scenario manager Tommy Burns would want, nor should it.

The Scottish League will soon issue guidelines to premier division teams that undersoil heating is essential.

We cannot continue to have some teams disadvantaged because some clubs have failed to realise that winter does hit hard in this country.

Meanwhile, Hamilton and Partick Thistle were involved in talks yesterday to ensure that the first division club's match at Firhill on Saturday will go ahead.

Although Firhill has undersoil heating Partick's Boxing Day clash with Hibernian was knocked out because of snow on the pitch.

Hamilton, who are ground-sharing at Firhill this season, are due to meet St Mirren on Saturday and with recent good results, including Tuesday`s draw at Dundee United, want the game to go ahead.

Hamilton secretary Scott Struthers said yesterday: "We have spoken to Partick officials this morning.

The undersoil heating is on and will continue like that during this cold spell.

"This will help Partick as well for they are at home to Falkirk next Monday and want to ensure that match takes place." Almost all of the rest of the Scottish football card is set to be hit by another winter white-out.

Only matches at Ibrox, Tannadice, Hampden, and Firhill, who all have undersoil heating, have a chance of going ahead.

A spokesman for Scotland Weather Watch last night confirmed the big freeze will continue through the weekend.

He said: "There is only an outside chance of temperatures improving by Saturday and some areas seeing rain.

It is far more likely that it will stay below freezing, with sleet and snow showers.

"There is also a good chance of strong winds which would cause snowdrifts and would close a lot of roads." This would mean travelling supporters would have difficulty making it to the grounds, even if their game goes ahead.

Rangers' and Dundee United's fixtures were the only ones to survive the Boxing Day weather.

And once again, the majority of games will be called off this weekend.

Here are the updated reports on the other premier division matches: Kilmarnock v Aberdeen - Killie are set to use revolutionary measures in a bid to save Saturday's match at Rugby Park from the big freeze.

The Ayrshire club are currently in discussion with several firms in an attempt to lay their hands on protective covers for the pitch.

And they are hoping to have the covers in place, with hot air blowing underneath, to thaw the frozen surface.

Club secretary Kevin Collins explained: "We are making every effort to get the park playable.

There is a covering of snow on the pitch, but it's not too bad and it's possible to push a pitchfork into the surface.

"Contact has been made with a few firms in an attempt to have the pitch covered.

No effort will be spared to save the match." Raith Rovers v Partick Thistle - It looks unlikely the pitch will recover in time.

General manager Billy McPhee said: "At the moment, the pitch is totally unplayable and it's not looking good.

"The groundstaff are working as hard as they can, but there is only so much they can do.

The referee decided on Saturday the ground was too dangerous in places and it hasn't changed since then." Falkirk v Motherwell - Already looks a certain non-starter.

Secretary George Miller said: "I would say at this stage there is no chance of the match going ahead.

"The pitch is covered with snow and frost has made the surface brick hard underneath.

The forecast is for more severe frost and blizzards, so it's not looking good." Rangers v Hibernian - Ibrox hosted the match against Kilmarnock and stood up to the rigours of the 90 minutes.

The pitch is okay for the visit of the Easter Road outfit.

In the first division, Morton's match with Dunfermline is almost certainly off, with several inches of snow lying on the Cappielow pitch.

Secretary Jane Rankin said: "There is hard-packed ice on the park and it doesn't augur well for Saturday.

If the weather forecast is correct, there isn't a chance of the game going ahead." St Johnstone will have a pitch inspection tomorrow, but the club are already resigned to the fact that the match with Clydebank will be called off.

Taken from the Herald

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