MARK Sykes is available for Oxford United tomorrow after it emerged he will not have to isolate because of Covid cases in the camp.

The midfielder was a last-minute omission from the squad that faced Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday after Marcus McGuane and Gavin Whyte tested positive for the virus.

The latter will now not join up with the Northern Ireland squad for their World Cup qualifiers in Switzerland and Bulgaria on October 9 and 12 respectively.

It was feared Sykes had been in close contact with Whyte, which would have forced him to isolate for ten days as he has not been vaccinated.

The 24-year-old was left out as a precaution, but the U’s have since gone through his movements and are satisfied he can face Stevenage in the Papa John’s Trophy tomorrow evening.

Karl Robinson also revealed Sam Winnall, Billy Bodin and James Henry all had the same illness as each other – but not Covid – with the latter travelling up to Sheffield at 6am on Saturday before coming off the bench to score a stoppage-time winner.

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The U’s head coach clarified what went on in the 24 hours leading up to the game at Hillsborough.

He said: “We tested them all on Friday, then two came back positive.

“Billy was that ill he couldn’t have travelled anyway, Jamo was okay to travel - he got in the car at 6am and got himself up to Sheffield, thankfully.

“All the players who haven’t been vaccinated, it was a question of what we do with them (for close contacts).

“When we went through very briefly it was probably only Sykesy who would’ve been in close contact at that particular time.

“Amy (Cranston, United’s head of medical services) came back to the training ground right after the game on Saturday and went through every single bit of detail in relation to when they came in, timing sheets and training protocols.

“He wasn’t in that same area that we thought he was.

“We’ve checked everything, so we’re quite happy that he’s available for tomorrow.

“It’s just the players who have Covid who are isolating.”

The positive tests came back shortly before United were due to leave for Hillsborough on Saturday, forcing them to arrive just 45 minutes before kick-off.

Robinson said: “When you’re about to compete you have to take the worst-case scenario and go from there.

“The worst case was there might have been a gym session that Gavin might have been in with Sykesy.

“People’s health is more important than any result.”

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The Stevenage clash is United’s last game until they host Plymouth Argyle on October 16, with Saturday’s scheduled trip to Sunderland postponed due to international call-ups.

It means Robinson will field a much stronger side than normal tomorrow evening, when a defeat would mean the U’s bow out of the competition at the group stage.

On Whyte, Robinson added: “Gavin’s ill and the most important thing is his health.

“For me, he doesn’t have to fly all over and he’ll be ready and raring to go for the Plymouth game.”

One player who had already been missing through illness was Sam Winnall, who has not played since the defeat at AFC Wimbledon on September 4.

The striker was hoping to feature against his former club on Saturday, but is not even expected to face Stevenage.

Robinson said: “We had a sickness bug going through Jamo (Henry), Sam and Billy (Bodin).

“It’s part and parcel of entering October and November, this is the cold season.

“It’s something we’ve always dealt with, just the fact that we’ve got Covid to deal with adds it in on top of that.

“Sam trained on Friday, he was still carrying a little bit of his illness and felt leggy and tired.

“I don’t think he’ll be available tomorrow either.”

This is the second time in three months United's plans have been hit by Covid, after three players tested positive and a further nine had to isolate in July.