It was a real pea souper for Stoke City and Nottingham Forest, with a freezing fog rolling around the empty bet365 Stadium.
It had been cold enough anyway, with steam from players’ breath hanging over the first half, before the pitch all-but disappeared in the second.
Abandonments are pretty rare at Stoke these days and there haven’t been any since they moved to this ground in 1997, with only one match postponed in that time too, but this one must have been pretty close to the threshold.
The two foggiest nights have both come live on Sky Sports.
Andy Griffin scored a rocket through the mist against Coventry in November 2006 and then this one last night when referee Dean Whitestone ordered Chris Hughton and the Forest back room team to put on high visibility bibs.
Michael O’Neill mentioned it as he discussed an errant back pass from John Obi Mikel that needed Joe Bursik on alert to prevent a Forest winner.
He said: “It was a great save in the end from Joe. John (Obi Mikel) plays a pass blind, he doesn’t see the Forest player there which is understandable. It’s very difficult. I’ve watched it back on video and it’s very difficult with the colour of their shirts as well to see. It was very, very difficult for the players.
“We gave them three or four opportunities due to bad decisions at that point of the game. We lost a wee bit of belief although we had a couple of chances to win it ourselves later on too.”
Matches are still abandoned due to fog, like Stoke’s league game at West Ham in January 1954.
Stoke were 4-1 down with seven minutes to go when play became impossible.
The Sentinel’s Norman Gosling reported: “Fog had been threatening from the start but it began to thicken only towards the interval. The white ball was then used but conditions became worse.
“Stoke scored a consolation goal – when Johnny King, it appeared, headed through from a corner – but immediately afterwards the fog descended in a pall, blocked out the players entirely and the referee had to abandon the game.”
Stoke drew the replayed match 2-2.
‘Visibility criteria’ was cited when a Reading-Fulham match was stopped at 0-0 at half-time in December 2016.
It is interesting to note in that game that it was suggested that Fulham change from a darker kit to help make players easier to see – only for that idea to be rejected by referee James Linington.
It appears that abandonments and changes to kit are at the officials’ discretion.
Reading said in a statement: “The referee advised he was satisfied with his visibility in the centre of the pitch and he could see what was going on.
“The two assistants referees were both adamant they could not carry out their job to the best of their ability – they could not make judgments on offsides or fouls and at times were unable to see the ball and the players on the far side of the pitch.
“The referee’s assessor stated that if a team was to win the match due to a bad call by the assistant then this would be unacceptable.”
EFL rules state that an abandoned match should be replayed although the guidebook adds: “Any league match which from any cause whatever falls short of 90 minutes’ duration may be ordered to count as a completed fixture or be replayed in full or in part on whatever terms and conditions the board shall in their absolute discretion.”
The one postponed Stoke match at the bet365 came in 2004 when high winds paid for the visit of West Bromwich Albion.
Sentinel columnist Simon Lowe wrote: “From the vantage point I managed to find behind the scoreboard, I couldn’t quite see referee Keith Hill and the two managers attempting to take goal-kicks and corners, but it provided a good 20 minutes’ worth of entertainment for those indulging in the sold-out hospitality package.
“According to a friend who was dining in the Waddington Suite, the trio scurried around like headless chickens, chasing the balls as they blew away. Attempting to play a game of football would have proved little more than farcical.”
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Stoke’s FA Cup tie with Doncaster in January 1930 made it to the 75th minute, with Stoke leading 3-2, when a combination of bad light and snow caused the match to be abandoned.
The replay took place five days later and Stoke managed to lose 1-0. The same thing happened in 1979 when Oldham escaped from the Victoria Ground with an FA Cup victory after having the first game abandoned due to snow with Stoke 2-0 ahead in the second half.
More damaging was the freak storm which blew the uninsured roof off the rickety old Butler Street Stand, and a decade-and-a-half’s patient team building by Tony Waddington whistled down the wind.