SPL bides time ahead of decision on fixtures

THE forecast of better weather from Thursday has increased the probability that Scottish Permier League football will return on Saturday.

With SPL pitches expected to be playable, whether matches go ahead will again depend on conditions around the stadiums and the feasibility of cross-country travel.

The SPL, which called off its entire card last Wednesday, is set to wait until later this week before deciding whether to cancel any games. "We're monitoring the situation very closely with each of our clubs," a spokesperson for the league said. "We will assess the situation in midweek to determine how much notice clubs may need if their game is to go ahead, but at the moment we have made no set date for a decision."

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Inverness Caley Thistle's home game against Rangers, which is due to kick off at 12.45pm, is the fixture most likely to require an early decision given the distance away fans will be travelling as well as the needs of the broadcasters. Aberdeen, who are due to visit Hearts, can also expect some notice before learning whether they will travel to Edinburgh.

Hearts said yesterday they were confident of repairing minor damage to the main stand at Tynecastle on time. "Some damage has been caused after the snow and ice came off the roof of the main stand," a statement read.

"We are working hard to resolve the issues and are confident they will not prevent the game against Aberdeen from going ahead. We are liaising with the relevant authorities and have kept Aberdeen informed of the situation. We remain hopeful of staging the match on Saturday."

The Tynecastle match is a 3pm kick-off, as are Celtic v Kilmarnock, Hamilton Accies v Hibernian, St Mirren v St Johnstone and Dundee United v Motherwell. The forecast for Edinburgh predicts sub-zero temperatures to continue until Thursday, when a modest rise to three degrees Celsius is expected. Friday's maximum is set to be 6C.

The area around Glasgow is similar, although with a higher chance of rain on Friday. Inverness will be slightly warmer on both Thursday and Friday, but drizzle is expected on the former day as well as heavier rain on Friday.

Dundee has the worst forecast of the places due to host SPL matches. A maximum temperature of minus 6 today will be followed by light snow tomorrow and light rain on Friday, by which time temperatures should have climbed to plus 4.

The three Scottish Cup replays due to be played last night and this evening have all been postponed but have yet to be allocated a new date. Threave Rovers and Stenhousemuir, Beith and Airdrie United, and Annan and Brechin all drew 2-2 in the original third-round ties back on 20 November. The winners of the replays will face Stranraer, Morton and Queen of the South respectively in next month's fourth round.

All the remaining SFL games which were due to be played tonight and tomorrow were also called off yesterday and put back to an unspecified date. Montrose and East Stirlingshire were due to play their Third Division match tonight, while Raith Rovers v Dundee in the First Division, Ayr United v East Fife in the second and Albion Rovers v Stranraer in the Third were all scheduled for tomorrow. The Second Division was the only division to have a game go ahead at the weekend, when Alloa drew 2-2 with Peterhead on Saturday.

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In the First Division, the home teams on Saturday are Cowdenbeath, Dunfermline, Morton, Partick Thistle and Stirling Albion. Thistle, who had originally been due to play Queen of the South this evening, take on Ross County at the weekend. Firhill should be playable, but whether the match goes ahead will depend on travelling conditions south from Dingwall.

Firhill was also playable last weekend, when Glasgow were scheduled to play Treviso in a Magners League rugby match, but the game was called off because areas around the ground were under ice and deemed to be dangerous. Glasgow have one of their biggest games of the season on Friday, when Toulouse visit in a Heineken Cup pool match which the Scots team must win to have any realistic hope of qualifying for the knockout stages. The undersoil heating at Thistle's stadium will ensure the surface remains playable but groundstaff will again have to examine the surrounding areas before deciding whether the Glasgow game can go on. With Toulouse planning to fly to Scotland on Thursday, a decision may have to be made as soon as tomorrow.

Edinburgh have a Heineken Cup pool game on Saturday evening in Castres, in the south of France, where the temperature yesterday was 14C. That is expected to fall, but provided the Scottish team are able to get a flight out of Edinburgh airport, closed for much of yesterday, the game should proceed.