FOOTBALL-loving referee Gary Sutton apologised to fans after calling off tonight’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie between Bury and Preston an hour before kick-off due to a waterlogged pitch.

The match official initially gave the go-ahead for the area quarter-final to be played after an inspection of the Gigg Lane pitch at 6.15pm, but was forced to abandon it 30 minutes later after the heavens opened.

“I’ve come from Lincolnshire tonight, I haven’t come here to spoil somebody’s evening,” said Sutton.

“I’m a football lover as well and it probably would have made for a good cup tie, the conditions.

“But ultimately I’ve really got to consider whether the safety was going to be there and I think it was going to end up being a farce.”

The referee said he made sure the pitch was monitored throughout the day after heavy rain over Monday night, but, after inspecting the surface with players and staff from both clubs an hour and half before kick-off, decided it was playable.

“There were concerns, but we decided to put the game on and did team sheets at quarter to seven and that’s when I got a knock on the door from the chief groundsman with a worried look on his face.

“It was really coming straight down and he was fighting a losing battle.

"We got the latest weather forecast, which said it was due to rain until 9pm, so we really had not choice and both clubs agreed ”

With the ball unable to roll on the surface, Peter Shirtliff, assistant manager at Bury, believes the right decision was made, even though the rain eventually eased off before 8pm.

“The groundstaff had done a great job throughout the day and when the rain eased off in the afternoon it looked as though the pitch was going to be playable," he said.

“Of course, it started raining again and, with the water table being as it is, it’s up to the top and the pitch just couldn’t cope.”

The game now looks set to be postponed until after Christmas, although no official date has yet been announced. All tickets for the initial tie will be redeemed at the rescheduled fixture.