WORK to improve the pitch at Rodney Parade won’t begin as planned on Monday, say Newport County AFC.

The Exiles, who share the ground with owners Newport RFC and Newport Gwent Dragons, had announced at their recent fans’ forum that the work would begin on May 12.

But the contractors have other commitments next week and won’t now be able to start on the Rodney Parade surface until some time in the week beginning May 19.

A club spokesman said the work would be finished in time for the prestige friendly with Carl Zeiss Jena on July 26 “unless there are any unforeseen circumstances.”

The £80,000 drainage improvement project, organised and paid for by County, was only partly completed last summer.

The plan was to install improved drainage along with a Dragons-funded £40,000 irrigation scheme. The latter was completed but contractors ran out of time to complete the former.

The main drainage channels running the length of the pitch were put in place but the sand and gravel slits that run across the pitch and tie the whole system together were only in place from the changing rooms end up to halfway.

That left the northern end of the pitch – traditionally the most troublesome end – at risk of flooding and it was that end that suffered so badly during one of the wettest winters on record.

County saw six home matches postponed in December, January and February and large parts of the northern end of the pitch have been covered in sand since then, making life difficult for Justin Edinburgh’s men.

Star striker Aaron O’Connor said: “Having a decent pitch will help us next season.

“We’ve been labelled as a kick it long team this season but it’s not been easy to get the ball down and play on that surface.

“A lot of footballing sides have come here and realised they can’t do that either and they’ve resorted to long ball football.

“It’s not what the fans want to see and it’s not what the players want either.

“Players don’t like doing it and it’s not pretty but we felt that was the best way to deal with it and get results.

“We want to play football,” he added. “We don’t want the ball in the air all the time. We were brought up playing football and we want that as much as the fans.

“Hopefully if the pitch gets sorted and we can look after it a little bit better we can play some good stuff next season.”