Tranmere will have a depleted squad for Sunday's FA Cup Third Round encounter with Barnsley after it was revealed that some of their players have tested positive for Coronavirus.

But with the club following protocols and guidance laid out by the English Football League (EFL), the fixture is still expected to go ahead.

Rovers’ fixture against Colchester United was called off last Saturday less than two hours before kick-off after both teams reported ‘Covid issues’, but manager Keith Hill insists that the Prenton Park outfit did everything correctly after some players woke on the day of the game with symptoms that are consistent with the virus.

Speaking to the Globe this afternoon at the club’s weekly pre-match press conference, he said: “We’ve got Covid problems, we’ve got injury problems and we’ve got illness problems. But we have to deal with it.

“Covid is something that we’re dealing with unlike anything else I’ve experienced before. It’s learning on the job. Last week we did everything right from a protocol point of view.

“We were willing to play once we had managed the integrity of the game, plus the health and safety of our players and their families and entered the stadium knowing that we had done everything that we could to protect our own players, staff and the opposition players. So we were very disappointed for the game to be cancelled last week. But we understood why.”

Normally, the Tranmere manager would give reporters a run-down of player availability, particularly concerning injuries, but on this occasion Hill chose not to do that, as he sought to shield the members of his squad who have Coronavirus from the limelight. 

He said: “It is an issue. I don’t want to reveal too much. I want the players to feel safe within the measures that we have adopted and adapted to safeguard everybody. We will be players missing. 

“But those players missing represents an opportunity for some of those players who haven’t been playing on a regular basis and potentially some of the younger professionals as well.

“Yes players have tested positive. But four weeks ago we had players testing positive as well. We have been assured by the EFL that everything that we are doing is right in respect to games going ahead. It was the same on Saturday.”

It was clear that Hill was less than impressed with last week’s postponement – the second that Tranmere have been impacted by in the past two months.

He added: “Covid and the pandemic has brought a lot of good out of people but it can bring the bad out of people as well. I’m looking at sporting integrity. I want that to be upheld in football.

"I don’t want Covid to be used as an excuse to not play a game and too seek an unfair advantage. The sporting morale compass has got to remain.

“Everything that we’re doing is supposed to be protecting the integrity of the game. But I think we’re getting more exposed. Not to Covid, but to the demands that the EFL and FA are possibly putting on football clubs.”

Despite evident squad selection issues, the Rovers boss insisted that his available players are looking forward to Sunday’s FA Cup clash at Oakwell, against one of the teams he has previously managed.

He said: “It’s a positive distraction. We’re looking forward to it. We’ve tried to prepare as best as we can for it this week. The players are excited by the FA Cup and for me personally, we want to try and go as far as we can into the tournament. 

“You’ve got to try and pit your wits against better opposition and that represents the challenge on Sunday against Barnsley. 

“We’re going there with a smile on ours faces, with intent and it’s an opportunity to prove what a good side we are.”

Barnsley v Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup Third Round takes place at Oakwell Stadium on Sunday, January 10. Kick off 1.30pm.