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Friday, 28 November 2014

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Cricketers defy yobs to stage game despite damage to pitch

Vandals have seriously damaged the ground of Longtown Cricket Club, but members have vowed they will not be beaten by the hooligans.

Tony Steele photo
Tony Steele

Someone drove across the pitch, near Arthuret Church, leaving tyre marks on the outfield and the square.

The damage happened just days before the club was due to play Rockcliffe on Saturday.

The players were determined not to let the vandals win, and set off with rollers to flatten out the ground as best as possible, and ensure the game could go ahead.

“We got out rolling,” said captain Tony Steele. “Right now, if you go onto it, it doesn’t look as bad, but it did look awful.”

The damaged pitch and Saturday’s poor weather didn’t stop the club from putting in a strong performance though, with Longtown heading Rockcliffe in a winning draw.

However, Mr Steele is still worried about the effect the vandalism could have.

He said: “It was an awful day on Saturday but it [the vandalism] didn’t affect the game – it was just embarrassing.”

As well as finding the club’s damaged pitch to be an embarrassment,Mr Steele is also worried that the next generation of cricketers might be put off playing for Longtown because of it.

“For any new players coming down to the ground, it doesn’t look good,” he admitted. “They will want to go to grounds where this doesn’t happen.

“Why would you want to do something like that?”

Mr Steele said he would be reporting the events to the police, adding that this was not the first time the club has been targeted by vandals.

Several sites in Longtown have fallen victim to this kind of crime recently.

In 2013, the town’s multi-use games area (Muga) was threatened with closure following a spate of damage, but was eventually given a reprieve.

In July Geoff Norman, headteacher of Longtown Primary School, announced that the school would have to install new CCTV cameras because it had been repeatedly targeted by vandals.

Ray Bloxham, who represents Longtown and Rockcliffe on Carlisle City Council, was shocked by the events.

He said: “I think it is a great shame because we should be developing more sport in the rural areas. Places like football and cricket pitches in the rural areas are for the community more than anything else, and it is a great pity that someone thinks it is fun to drive over something that is part of the community.

“There are a lot of things going on to support youngsters and others in their sporting efforts in Longtown and then you get this kind of mindless vandalism.”

Mr Bloxham urged anyone with any information to contact the police or the cricket club directly.

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