Tranmere fans were left furious after they made a 500-plus mile round trip to West Sussex only for the game to be called off little more than an hour before kick-off.
Referee James Linington deemed that parts of Crawley’s Broadfield Stadium pitch were unplayable after holding a late inspection, with part of the turf on the North Stand side of the ground a particular area for concern.
But with many players and caretaker manager John McMahon stating they didn’t believe the pitch was playable, it begs the question why a decision to postpone was not made much earlier in the day.
The game was set to be McMahon’s first in charge of the club in over a decade after he was put in temporary charge following the suspension of Ronnie Moore.
Moore was placed on gardening leave on Monday until the conclusion of a Football Association investigation into a potential breach of betting rules.
That led to assistant boss McMahon stepping up into the caretaker role which he last occupied for a 6-0 defeat to Plymouth on October 11, 2003.
And despite the late notice, he had no complaints over the referee’s decision.
“It’s dangerous and it wouldn’t be the right thing to do to put the players at risk,” he said.
“When you go on the pitch it is obviously the right decision and there’s nothing we can do about it.
“It is (a nightmare) really when you consider the travelling we have put in.
“We are trying to do things right, preparing right, which we have done.
“They are desperate to get a game on. They have left it as late as possible, it is just unfortunate that we are so far away. I don’t think really they can do much more.
“There are probably four or five poor areas. The groundsman, to his credit, has worked on them, but there’s no way that was playable.”
Red Devils chief executive Michael Dunford, meanwhile, admitted he was ‘embarrassed’ by the decision.
The pitch has been a constant problem for Crawley over the last few weeks, with the bad weather forcing a host of postponements and meaning they have not played a home match since January 8. That has left them with up to seven games in hand on some of their League One rivals, and they now have another fixture to arrange after last night.
And Dunford admitted: “I’m embarrassed standing in front of the cameras again trying to make excuses.
“We had the covers on all day, we had a deluge late afternoon, but all we are doing is making excuses.
“It’s not good enough. We have got to get to the root cause of the problem and that one particular area of the pitch at the visitors’ end in the penalty area.
“We have got to sort this out once and for all.
“I am sick and tired of it, it’s a total embarrassment. I apologise. We’ll be having words with the groundsman to try and find a remedy for this.”
Most of the travelling Tranmere fans had already arrived at the stadium when news of the late pitch inspection filtered through, and they were left fuming half an hour later when the game was called off.
The Rovers players made light of the situation, with defender Ash Taylor tweeting a photo of himself with a pitch fork in the sodden ground and saying: “Pitch has never been playable.”
Ryan Lowe, meanwhile, added: “Nightmare, was never going to be on that game! Can’t believe they got us and the fans down there.”
Jake Cassidy said: “Game off, what a waste of a journey, pitch has never been playable!
“Feel sorry for the fans that have made the journey down.”
It was ultimately those fans who were left out of pocket with roughly 100 of the Super White Army making what turned out to be a pointless trip.
Carlisle’s supporters were left in a similar position on Saturday when they made an even longer journey to Broadfield, only for their game to be called off two hours before kick-off.
Tranmere return to action against Coventry City at Prenton Park on Saturday.