CORONAVIRUS-HIT Rotherham United are reluctantly going ahead with tomorrow's Championship clash with Barnsley because they fear an EFL points deduction if they call off the fixture.
Five players in the Millers camp and one member of staff have contracted Covid-19 while a sixth member of the squad is awaiting the results of a test after reporting symptoms yesterday.
With three of his men still in self-isolation and five of his team out with long-term injuries, manager Paul Warne said: "I think I've got three or four for the bench if I'm lucky."
The EFL, having sanctioned Rotherham's request for postponements of their previous two matches, refused to grant approval this time and spelled out the possible consequences of the Reds match not taking place.
"I don't want it on. I don't want to put my players or anyone at risk," said Warne who is leading the Millers' push for second-tier survival.
"We could have postponed it but what I didn't want to happen down the line - and I'm led to believe it would have - was a fine with the possibility of a points deduction.
"I didn't want that hanging over our heads so, regrettably, we've taken the game on."
Rotherham's numbers could yet become even further depleted.
"Yesterday morning we had a player phone up with symptoms. He's now been tested," Warne said.
"To add to the woes, the EFL labs are shut over Christmas so we have had to go to the NHS. We are waiting for the result of that test to see if he is available to play tomorrow.
"We've been hit really badly by it. I normally wouldn't ever want a game to be off but in circumstances like this - and I don't moan much - I feel a little bit on the hard end of the decisions. It does seem harsh."
The boss says that the EFL informed the club that their non-Covid players could come out of quarantine a day earlier than Government guidelines and return to training yesterday instead of today.
"The EFL asked us to come in after nine days instead of ten to give us two days to prep for Barnsley," he said.
"I was advised that if we didn't play the game there would be retribution because we'd have been going against EFL medical advice.
"The medical advice was that nine days' 'iso' was enough and that I had enough players within the football club to get the game on."
The EFL said they would be making no formal response to the manager's comments.
The player who tested positive before the scheduled Derby County encounter on December 19 is out of isolation and in the frame for selection at AESSEAL New York Stadium tomorrow night.
"He trained for the first time on Sunday and, you won't be surprised to know, he felt ridiculously 'leggy' and energy-less," Warne said.
We still have to make a decision whether we can start him tomorrow. We want to. He is available but is not yet the player he was before."
The player who tested positive on December 19 is free from quarantine tomorrow and may be among the substitutes.
Some other clubs in the EFL have postponed three matches after Covid outbreaks in their squads but it may be that they acted independently of the game's governing body and could now be penalised.