Ryan Lowe admitted Preston North End had “no choice” but to postpone the Boxing Day meeting with Sheffield United following a significant number of positive Covid-19 cases.
Lowe, who took charge of his first game for the club almost two weeks ago, was left disappointed last weekend when an away trip to Millwall was cancelled due to cases in the Lions’ camp.
However, this week it has been the PNE squad who have been hit with the virus, and injuries on top of those affected by Covid left the club without a sufficient number of players to feature on Sunday afternoon.
Speaking to the local media, Ryan said: “We just haven’t got a squad to field which is disappointing.
“We’d have gone in to the game without one or two no problem, but not when it gets to the figures it’s got to.
“We’ve had to make that call today which is obviously disappointing, especially for me as a new manager and the players are all champing at the bit, but what do you do? It’s out of our control.”
The cancellation of last weekend’s game against Millwall gave Ryan and his coaching staff some extra time on the training pitch to implement his ideas on the team.
While admitting that has proved helpful, he’s frustrated that he will now not have them on the training pitch in the coming days, with the Euxton training ground closed in order to mitigate any potential further spreading of the virus.
“I’m very disappointed obviously,” he said. “After the Barnsley game we wanted to try and keep kicking on and getting that winning feeling was fantastic.
“Then to have that [Millwall game] postponed meant we could have a good few days with the lads.
“Today was going to be a good day in terms of what we were going to build up to Sheffield United and then obviously the virus has kicked us hard today.
"So we’ve had no choice but to speak to the EFL and go along the lines of the protocols which is obviously to now miss a big game of football, which not just me, but the fans and the players were all excited about.”
It is not yet confirmed when staff and players will be able to return to the training ground, but a testing programme from home has been put in place.
Set to be coming up over the rest of the festive period are away trips to West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City, with Ryan admitting it appears "very unlikely" the fixture at the Hawthorns will be able to go ahead given the club's current situation.
Ryan added: “We want to play, we’re not sitting here saying we don’t, we want to play as many games as we possibly can.
“I think what we do have to do is take each day as it comes. The lads have all gone home with tests and we’ll monitor tests every single day, and they’ll report back into the group.
“It looks highly unlikely [that the West Brom game can be played] to be honest with you because of the days and it’s so close, but we’ll just have to take every day as it comes.”
Ultimately, it is the health and safety of everybody connected with the club which comes first above all, and that’s a point the boss was keen to stress.
“It’s tough times, it’s challenging times. My main focus is to make sure everyone in the country really who is affected by it [stays safe].
“But most importantly my family, my players’ families, my players, and everyone associated with the football club, making sure they stay safe through this bit of a sticky and challenging situation.”
Watch Ryan's full press conference on iFollow above.