A new adventure for Cray Wanderers tomorrow as we play our first ever home match on a 3G surface. So what is a 3G surface?
The Third Generation pitches are basically an upgrade on what used to be called Astroturf in the 70’s-80’s. In comparison to the rather horrible artificial pitches laid down by the likes of QPR, Luton Town, Oldham Athletic and Preston NE in the 80’s – early 90’s the modern day pitch has longer synthetic grass blades which offers a better surface for players. The grass is supported by a thin layer of sand and by stacks of black pellets or rubber crumb and helps create a better underlay which is less likely to cause injury.
The beauty of 3G pitches is the ability to be able to play all year round as the pitch soaks up sufficiently rain and ice and is unaffected by the sun thereby not drying out.
Cray played their first ever league match on a 3G pitch in February 2014 when the Wands played the first team to install the new style pitches, Maidstone United in the Ryman Premier losing 3-0. Maidstone had just moved into the Gallagher Stadium and the pitch was the cornerstone of the clubs development. However, the Stones had to go through hell and high water in order to get the pitch accepted into the Conference South but eventually they did after the Conference leagues agreed to the new pitches. They now play in the National League but currently they cannot get any further as the Football League has not approved 3G pitches and would have to revert to grass something the ground has never had. With Bromley and Sutton United all too in the Conference these are becoming more and more commonplace.
Sutton United’s FA Cup exploits last season which received worldwide exposure was the biggest shot in the arm for 3G pitches as National League United took on the might of Leeds United and Arsenal in televised games. Scare stories before hand about potential injuries and the ability for pros to play on the new surface proved fruitless bruised pride was a problem for Leeds as they were beaten. The old style pitches were a nightmare for some senior pros and were never truly accepted apart from the supporters of those clubs that had them. There is no reason for these new pitches to be compared like for like and does on first instance look like grass until you get fairly close up.
So how will Cray fare on it? Past experience has brought the Wands a couple of real highs. The 2-0 win at Harlow Town in April 2015 went a long way to keeping Cray in the Ryman North during the Great Escape run and the team looked naturally suited to the surface. Then a few months later in August 2015, the Wands ran up a tremendous 6-2 win at AFC Sudbury where Andre McCollin, Leigh Bremner, Karl Dent and Grant Basey ran amok. On the minus side, Cray lost the Ryman North playoff Semi Final at Harlow Town and last season were beaten 1-5 at Walton Casuals. Add to that a win at Whyteleafe, a draw at Harlow and a defeat to Maidstone in the Ryman League Cup and at Carshalton last season these are the sum total of games so far played.
It promises to be a fascinating season with the Wands quick passing game ideal for the slickness that will come from the pitch and hopefully prepare ourselves for the future. I never used to like them and had sympathy with teams like Ebbsfleet whose grass pitch was perfect and felt they were being penalised but now having them is a financial no-brainer and also vital for the development of Youth team and Academy football which all of the game will welcome.
Welcome to the future.