Crawley's hopes of going seven points clear at the top of the Dr Martens League were put on ice yesterday.

Town's clash against Folkestone Invicta was called off just over an hour before the scheduled kick-off by match referee Neil Perkin because of a frozen pitch.

The verdict infuriated Crawley secretary Dave Haining, who labelled the decision "diabolical."

As Crawley's players enjoyed an impromptu training session on the pitch, Haining fumed: "We had three referees look at the pitch, and they all said it was playable. I can't believe he has called it off."

The match was declared on after the club called in local referee Ray Upton to inspect the pitch during the morning, but when the match official arrived he took a different view.

Hundreds of fans, unaware of the late postponement, were turned away from the ground.

Crawley chairman Jo Gomm said: "The decision has probably cost us in the region of £5,000. We expected a 2,000 crowd today, but now the match will have to be played in midweek."

Gravesend referee Perkin said: "My main consideration was the safety of the players. There were hard, icy patches, and with the temperature dropping it was not going to get any better.

"If we had started the game, there was a real chance we would not have finished it."

Crawley manager Billy Smith remained philosophical. "I'm disappointed. The players wanted to play.

"But I'm not surprised the game was called off. It might have become a bit of a lottery later on, and we wouldn't have wanted that. But with everyone else off, we could have gone seven points clear."