Western Morning News

City’s Cup opponents are hit by outbreak

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SHEFFIELD Wednesday have been forced to close their Middlewood Road training ground due to a coronaviru­s outbreak, writes Stuart James.

The Sky Bet Championsh­ip club, who sacked manager Tony Pulis last week, have declined to comment on the number of squad and staff members affected.

Players are expected to train at home for the next two days, while it is hoped the training complex can reopen later this week with further Covid-19 tests scheduled for Wednesday, it is understood.

First-team coach Neil Thompson has been placed in temporary charge of the Owls, who are due to face Exeter City at St James Park in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.

Wednesday have won both their games under Thompson since the departure of Pulis and have taken 10 points from their last four games.

The Owls climbed out of the relegation zone for the first time this season after Friday’s 1-0 home win against Derby.

The Grecians have not played since Boxing Day due to matches at Newport County and Barrow being called off, but because of the weather, rather than Covid.

Their clash at Stevenage before Christmas was called off due to Covid and now takes place on February 2 (7pm).

The match at Newport has been reschedule­d for Tuesday, February 16 with a 7pm kick-off, while the rearranged clash with Bolton, is now on January 12 (7.45pm).

Meanwhile, Covid-19 testing is being carried out at all EFL clubs across the Championsh­ip, League One and League Two this week.

Given the surge in coronaviru­s cases throughout the country it would not be a surprise if positive tests were confirmed on a widespread basis.

That could then impact the number of FA Cup third round ties which are able to be played this weekend.

League One, in particular, has been affected by several matches being called off recently due to Covid-19 issues.

Regular testing has not taken place at EFL clubs, including Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City, over recent months, unlike in the Premier League.

The EFL have been following medical advice that abiding by protocols in training and on matchdays would be enough to protect players and staff from the risk of infection.

However, with the ever-increasing rise in coronaviru­s cases there have been reports the EFL are now set to adopt a twice-weekly testing policy.

The Pilgrims are due to travel to Huddersfie­ld Town on Saturday for an FA Cup third round clash that kicks-off at 6.30pm.

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