Albion fear Saturday's FA Cup third round clash against Preston at Withdean could fall foul of the Big Freeze.

If the game is postponed it would be the third game at Withdean out of the last four to be hit.

A precautionary pitch inspection is likely to take place tomorrow morning before the First Division visitors fly down to Gatwick.

Martin Perry, Albion's chief executive, said: "The situation is being kept under close review. We are keeping an eye on the short range weather forecast.

"The temperature is likely to rise on Friday but whether it will rise enough to get ice and frost out of the ground remains to be seen."

Albion's home League game against Reading on December 14 was frozen off. So too was the New Year's Day fixture against Northampton, despite the club spending thousands on pitch covers.

"The covers are on the pitch," Perry said. "The problem is that there is no heat in the ground, so if the temperature drops sufficiently there is not much the covers can do.

"We are doing everything we possibly can to get the game on and we are looking at additional measures."

They include hiring the same pitch bubble Leicester had for their New Year's Day game against Arsenal, although that still had to be postponed.

Ref David Elleray had to take into account the Filbert Street surface freezing as soon as the bubble was removed for the early evening kick-off.

Injury victims Kerry Mayo and Gary Hart could return to the Albion squad if Saturday's tie goes ahead but neither of them will be in the starting line-up.

Mayo (knee ligaments) and Hart (dead leg) have missed the last three matches. Hopes of them having a run-out in a friendly at Fulham yesterday were dashed by the cold weather.

Boss Peter Taylor revealed: "Kerry has more of a chance than Gary, but they've had no football whatsoever, so to play them in the third round against Preston would be a difficult situation.

"At the moment I am not convinced about putting them in without having a game beforehand, so the best for both of them is to have a chance of being on the subs bench."

Paul Brooker is favourite to replace the suspended Paul Rogers, while Michel Kuipers is expected to recover from a pulled thigh muscle to take over from the Cup-tied Simon Royce in goal.

More Albion stuff at