Fratton Park chief Andy Cullen delivers update as Portsmouth fear Oxford encounter on Boxing Day could be off

Pompey have pledged to make an ‘early decision’ over the fate of their Boxing Day clash with Oxford United.

The Blues have already called off fixtures with AFC Wimbledon and Exeter in the last week following a coronavirus outbreak within the camp.

Next under threat is Oxford’s visit to Fratton Park for a sold-out League One occasion on Sunday.

Andy Cullen has revealed another round of lateral flow testing took place this morning to determine Pompey player availability.

Pompey's Boxing Day game with Oxford United has been postponed following a coronavirus outbreak among the playing squad. Picture: Graham Hunt/ProSportsImages

According to the Blues’ chief executive, a ‘significant number’ of Danny Cowley’s first-team squad are already isolating after previously testing positive.

Now the club are awaiting the outcome of latest testing – with the Boxing Day encounter with Oxford under scrutiny.

Cullen told The News: ‘We had another round of lateral flow this morning and that will determine the status of the Boxing Day game

‘It may well be that a call is made pretty early considering our long-term injuries and a number of players still in isolation up to and including Boxing Day or even beyond that.

‘We are in touch with the EFL at the moment, while Oxford have their own issues. They were barely able to get to the numbers on Saturday for their game with Wigan.

‘I wouldn’t want to give a number (of those who have Covid), but quite a significant number of the squad which have tested positive.

‘We would also have a number of them missing on Boxing Day because of the isolation rules, with it being 10 full days following the day you’ve had a positive test.

‘In order for a game to be played, you must have 14 players – including one goalkeeper – to play the match.

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‘The only exception to that would be if all your goalkeepers were missing. We are not in that situation in terms of the goalkeeper, but we’re in a difficult situation regarding numbers.

‘We need to see what happens in the next two days, but there is likely to be an early decision.

‘Added to Covid, we also have the likes of Ryan Tunniclffe, Louis Thompson and Clark Robertson injured, so we’re very, very low on numbers.’

Pompey were last year forced to cancel their match with Swindon on Boxing Day after several players, including Jack Whatmough, contracted coronavirus.

The visit to Bristol Rovers three days later was also scrapped as the League One Christmas programme was devastated by the pandemic.

Cullen added: ‘We had a round of positive lateral flows on Thursday and Friday, following those up with PCR tests.

‘The good news was the first one which came back was negative, but unfortunately many of the others were positive, so we’ve gone straight to red protocol.

‘We have closed training access down to all but essential visitors and people who work there. To be fair, there are very few players training at the moment, a fair number are isolating.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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