Covid concerns ramp up in Football League as Oxford set to be without 13 players

Last weekend saw Oxford United’s League One game with Wigan called off due to an outbreak in the camp, with another postponement in the National League on Tuesday

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Oxford United are set to be without as many as 13 first team players for their League One clash with Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night as Covid-related absences begin to bite in the lower divisions.

The U’s saw last weekend’s fixture with Wigan Athletic shelved after seven of their players tested positive for the respiratory disease.

The players in question are said to have felt unwell overnight and after positive lateral flow tests were returned on Saturday morning the game was subsequently called off.

Despite those same players self-isolating and injuries starting to bite for Oxford, the decision has been made to press ahead with the visit of Fleetwood just 72 hours later.

The club confirmed on Monday that no positive tests have since been returned among players and staff.

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Oxford chief Karl Robinson has a heavily-depleted squad for the game against Fleetwood

Karl Robinson’s side have been given permission to field an emergency loan goalkeeper in Tuesday’s match, if deemed necessary. It is reported that Birmingham’s Connal Trueman is set to join the club and be plunged straight into Tuesday’s game with Simon Grayson’s side.

Ahead of the match and despite the testing circumstances, Oxford chief Robinson remained defiant.

“We’ll have three on the bench, but we’ll be very competitive,” he said. “We’re only allowed to make three subs, so to bring anyone else into this group now would be a bit silly.

“We’ve been shut off from everything else in the building and we don’t want to increase that risk.

“Our younger players have to do something to get into the squad, you can’t just be handed something for nothing. We’ll see how players react to more testing and then we’ll move forward from there.”

Whilst that game is going ahead, there has been another Covid-enforced postponement.

Tuesday’s National League match between Southend United and Maidenhead United has been cancelled because of a Covid-19 case in the Magpies camp.

The decision was made by the league following consultation with both clubs.

In addition, today also saw Championship side Stoke City confirm that player Nick Powell is self-isolating after testing positive for Covid.

The 27-year-old was ruled out for two months when he suffered a fractured fibula last month.

Despite making progress in his recovery, he has now been forced to isolate for 10 days.

Rotherham United were hit by a number of Covid outbreaks last season, leading to many postponements

These developments, albeit small in terms of the number of games and individuals being affected, will be of a pressing concern for the EFL and National League. Especially as we get deeper into winter.

Last season saw huge disruption especially during the colder months.

Rotherham United were one of the clubs worst affected.

The Millers were hit by two outbreaks in their camp throughout the campaign and the numerous postponements, in what was already a shoehorned season, meant Paul Warne’s side had to endure a backlog of games that meant their final nine fixtures were condensed into just 29 days.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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