Watt reflects on late postponement
Watt reflects on late postponement

Tuesday’s Isthmian Kent derby between Hythe Town and Sittingbourne at Reachfields was called off just before kick off after one of the home players tested positive for COVID19.

That sadly wasn’t the main issue, as following a club decision that everyone of Steve Watt’s squad would undergo testing, there were a number of test results that weren’t returned in time for the 7.45pm kick off leaving the match official no option but to postpone the game after guidance from the authorities, leaving many supporters already in the ground annoyed.

KSN contacted all involved on Wednesday morning and found the Hythe boss in reflective mood. “The best way to describe it is frustrating really…” Watt told us before explaining exactly what had happened.

“We were made aware on Monday that one of our players had tested positive as he had a test for his work – he’s had no symptoms and still doesn’t have any – and the club informed the League and FA as well as Sittingbourne and Haywards Heath (who we played at the weekend) and they instructed that the game go ahead as usual.”

“We then decided as a group all to get tested – which we weren’t required to do – as we felt it was in everyone’s best interest to go and get the tests done to ensure first and foremost the safety of everyone, not just within our building, but also Sittingbourne’s as well. The bulk came back negative – the high-risk ones included – but there was a number that hadn’t come back before the game was due to start.”

“We were then advised (by the match referee) not to play the fixture because they had not isolated whilst they were waiting for their results – which is something I have to admit that I was not aware of.”

“The thing is that I still can’t find anywhere definitively where that is stated – it was a frustrating evening but one I hope that everyone learns from sooner rather than later. I also wonder if the game could have just been put back 24 hours to allow the outstanding tests to come back… “

“Ironically as we speak on Wednesday morning, we’re now just waiting on one more result – the others have thankfully come back negative – and we would have had sufficient players to play the game albeit 24 hours late!”

Watt admitted the challenges facing Non-League players are considerably more than professionals, admitting, “I think that Non-League players are at a higher risk than League players because they have their daily jobs and they’re more likely to pick up positive tests. It’s unfortunate really – no-one had had to deal with this before as we really are in unprecedented times as everyone is dealing with it and learning as we go on!”

“Hopefully, the main thing for me that came out of Tuesday night is that common sense prevails! We didn’t have to get our players tested and it’s that that’s made us arrive at this position… if we’d have turned up and not had anyone tested then the game would have gone ahead and we wouldn’t be having this conversation and we would have been talking about the result.”

“But my or our decision – the players’ decision – that it was in everyone’s best interest – all of our families, and everyone involved in the game – to get tested which has led us here.”

“I think that if there was something more in black and white saying that this is what must happen, we could have made a better decision of calling the game off before. But because we had people tested… I’ve not found that in black in and white anywhere, so if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to hold my hands up, but we’ve all been reading up on the regulations as we have to.”

“Thing is that if any had had symptoms, they would have immediately been instructed not to be there… No player in my squad has any symptoms and hopefully from this there will be lessons learned and possibly if this happens in Non-League level you can maybe look to move the fixture to allow a club to get people tested.”

“Allow a club to carry out their investigation to see if it’s safe to continue playing without fining clubs or costing clubs points because I really don’t think it’s anyone’s fault – the situation we’re in now is one that we’re all learning from it and make the best decisions going forward.”

KSN have contacted Sittingbourne boss Darren Blackburn and the League office for comment on this developing story…