Rotherham United v Barnsley – Millers ensure derby date goes ahead despite Covid-19 issue

ROTHERHAM UNITED manager Paul Warne has confirmed that the club have elected not to postpone this evening’s scheduled Championship home derby with Barnsley due to a fear of ‘retribution’ from the EFL.

STRESSES AND STRAINS: Rotherham United manager Paul Warne. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

Worries about potential sanctions in the form of either a heavy fine or even a possible points deduction further down the line has ensured that the Millers – whose scheduled festive games against Derby County and Middlesbrough were postponed following positive cases of Covid-19 – will reluctantly take the field, despite being severely under-strength and unable to fill the substitute’s bench.

The club were forced to call off their home game with Derby at short notice on December 19 after a player tested positive and others reported symptoms.

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A second case was confirmed three days later and another round of testing revealed more positive cases, with the Millers forced to postpone the Boxing Day trip to Boro.

FOCUSSED: Barnsley boss Valerien Ismael. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

All told, five Rotherham players have tested positive, along with one member of staff. The club are awaiting results regarding one more player who has been tested after displaying symptoms.

The player who tested positive ahead of the Derby game trained for the first time on Sunday and is available tonight. Another who picked up a positive result is due to return to the club after a spell in self-isolation today.

Subsequently to doctor’s approval, the second player could be on the bench, but if he has to be used, it will only be in the latter stages, Warne confirmed.

Three more players are due to return to training on Friday after their periods of isolation.

Barnsley's Malik Helik of Bscores his side's winning goal against Huddersfield Town during their derby showdown at Oakwell. Picture: Darren Staples/Sportimage

The club’s players who have not recorded positive tests returned to training on Sunday after isolating in line with government regulations.

They returned a day earlier than the usual ten-day period of absence from the workplace after the club were contacted by the EFL to give the Millers’ two full days to prepare for tonight’s scheduled game.

Warne said: “I was advised that if we did not play the (Barnsley) game, there would be retribution because I am going against medical advice.

“The medical advice is that nine days isolation is enough as I have enough players in the football club to get the game on.

“I do not want it on or to put anyone at risk. But now it is on, there is little I can do but pick the lads up.

“We could have postponed it. But what I did not want to happen – which I was led to believe – was come March or April, the Premier League and Championship clubs get hit harder than League One and League Two clubs with Covid postponements and there was a fine because I am going against advice as they are saying the game is playable.

“I spent nearly five hours on the phone and FaceTime on Boxing Day afternoon, trying to get to a conclusion. I was caught between a rock and a hard place.

“I have to respect the EFL’s wishes, but also want to respect my players and staff and do not want to make a decision to put the club’s status in jeopardy two or three months down the line.

“It has been tough. Every time my phone rings, I think: ‘oh no, please do not tell me someone else.’”

Offering a Barnsley perspective ahead of tonight’s derby, head coach Valerien Ismael commented: “It is not my problem, I am the manager of Barnsley FC and not Rotherham.

“That is why every club has their own issues. It is a sensitive situation at the moment. It is a really bad situation for Rotherham.”

Last six games: Rotherham DLLLWL; Barnsley LWWWLW.

Referee: S Martin (Staffs).

Last time: Rotherham 0 Barnsley 1, January 28, 2017; Championship.

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