Barnsley are suspended from playing  for the immediate future and could be rearranging their season due to coronavirus – ten years on from a more controversial rearrangment for less serious reasons. 

Mark Robins’ Reds, having made the 300-mile trip down to Devon, were 4-1 up at Plymouth Argyle when the match was abandoned due to rain after 58 minutes on November 28, 2009.The rearranged game was drawn 0-0 on Tuesday, March 30, 2010, which will be a decade ago on Monday.  Stephen Foster, who was captain that day, said: “It was unbelievable and it’s etched in my mind. 

“No disrespect to Plymouth but, because it’s so far away, it’s one you look at when the fixtures come out because you want to get the long trip over with. So to have to go back again was one hell of a slog. We had played brilliantly and we felt really comfortable. Conditions were bad but we didn’t understand why the ref didn’t call it off at half-time, because it was just as bad then. It was a bitter pill to swallow. It’s normally about a six-hour trip back but it felt even longer.”

Adam Hammill, who set up the first goal and scored the third, said: “It was a very strange day and one I remember pretty clearly.  “We had no idea at half-time that the game could be off but Plymouth must have known because they were talking to the ref all the time and making dangerous tackles from about ten yards away, to try to show how bad the pitch was. 

“We were hoping the game would go on as long as possible so there was more chance of the result standing. I remember the ball was near the centre circle and I heard the whistle go, I didn’t understand why but then the referee indicated the game was off. We were really disappointed in the dressing room. On a personal note, I was gutted that my assist and goal wouldn’t count.”  

Referee Gavin Ward had angered Barnsley fans the previous season by giving Coventry City a controversial late penalty against the relegation-threatened Reds. In a rare occurrence for referees in this country, he gave an interview after the Plymouth match. He said: “With the rain continuously coming down, the ball holding up, and there being a lot of surface water on the pitch, the players’ safety has to be paramount and that was the reason for abandoning it.”

Plymouth boss Paul Sturrock backed Ward’s decision but an angry Robins said of the referee: “I do not think he would have made the same decision if the score was the other way around.  The players are devastated and we have to remember that feeling when we come back here. We could have had eight or nine goals, we were that far on top. We should see if the referee will reimburse our supporters because coming here will have cost them an absolute fortune.”

Barnsley owner Patrick Cryne also weighed in on the issue, citing his experience as a referee at amateur level.  He called the abandonment ‘absurd’ and questioned the risk to players’ safety as well as Ward’s decision not to consult with the two teams at half-time.  The home side had taken the lead through captain Karl Duguid but Daniel Bogdanovic levelled within seconds, heading in a cross by Hammill, then Emil Hallfredsson’s deflected strike put Barnsley 2-1 up after 16 minutes. Hammill added a third then Ryan Shotton got his first Barnsley goal to make it 4-1 at the break. 

Anderson de Silva missed the first match due to a one-game suspension and still had to sit out the next fixture because of the abandonment.  Bizarrely, Nathan Doyle’s yellow card collected in Plymouth was his fifth of the season and meant that he was banned for the next game at Blackpool.  On a Tuesday night four months later, the Reds put on free coach travel to the rearranged match for the 295 fans who travelled down to Devon for the original fixture.  By then, Barnsley were 12th – with no chance of relegation or a place in the top six – while Plymouth were second-bottom and six points adrift of safety. Plymouth’s goalkeeper David Stockdale made one-on-one saves from Bogdanovic and Iain Hume, twice, while the hosts hit both the post and crossbar.

The draw was part of a ten-match winless run at the end of the season for Robins’ men who finished 18th while the Pilgrims went down to League One.  Foster said: “I was actually very pleased with a point. We could easily have thought ‘we’ve already beaten them’ and felt sorry for ourselves.  So it was a good point. It would have been different if we had needed those two points to stay up or get in the play-offs. “It was amazing to see so many people in the away end for a midweek game considering what had happened. But that doesn’t really surprise me from Barnsley fans.” 

Hammill said: “A rearranged game is always hard as you have to change all your plans and do the travelling again. I just looked at it as another game of football but it was very frustrating to have been 4-1 up away from home, which is very rare, then have to start all over again.”