Steve Cotterill’s in-form side were due to head to the Premier League Saints but a Covid outbreak within the Shrewsbury camp has left them unable to fulfil the fixture.
The fate of the tie will now be decided by an independent Professional Games Board, who will meet early next week, to decide whether the fixture can be re-arranged or if Town must forfeit their place in the competition.
The tie was due to take place tomorrow night at St Mary’s in front of the BT Sport cameras, but a significant breakout of the virus at Shrewsbury – hitting as many as 10 individuals – has meant it will not go ahead this weekend.
Town may yet have a lifeline in the competition if it is decided the fixture can be replayed. Southampton, however, face a packed schedule this month as it stands. They are in Premier League action on January 16 and 20 ahead of fourth round weekend on Saturday, January 23.
Town were in talks with Southampton, the EFL, FA and Public Health England and, upon receiving medical advice, the ‘reluctant’ decision has been reached for the fixture to not go ahead.
The League One side told the authorities they did not have the necessary number of fit, non-isolating players to partake in the fixture.
The individuals involved have entered isolation and Cotterill’s side’s next focus is now the League One visit of Lincoln on Saturday week. But Shrewsbury’s Sundorne Castle training ground has also been shut for 10 days, leaving the chance of the Lincoln clash going ahead as slim.
The cancellation comes as a financial blow to Town, with the broadcast fee worth £37,500, as well as potential prize money. Both Southampton and Shrewsbury will be in next Monday’s fourth and fifth round draws. But chief executive Brian Caldwell this morning said health and safety is the immediate priority.
Rachel Robinson, Shropshire director for Public Health, said: “We are working closely with the club to help limit any further potential spread. All positive cases, as well as close contacts, are self-isolating for at least 10 days in line with national guidance.”
Town midfielder Dave Edwards said about the prospect of a re-arrangement: “Of course it’s going to be difficult to fit the tie in, we’re still hoping there might be a resolution down the road but it’s looking really unlikely at the moment.
“In the world we’re living in at the moment it’s everyone’s health and safety which matters the most.
“I can’t say enough about what the club has done to try to get everything right.”
Other Cup ties has also been affected. Derby County’s third round clash at non-league Chorley will go ahead despite the absence of Wayne Rooney, his coaching staff and entire first-team squad, with an academy side to be fielded.
And another Championship outfit, Middlesbrough, have been decimated by positive tests ahead of their clash with Brentford, as have Sheffield Wednesday.
Boro’s Rockliffe training complex has been lockdown as a result, but their is a possibility the tie could still go-ahead with boss Neil Warnock ready to field under-23 and youth team players.
Villa’s third round tie against Liverpool tonight is also in the spotlight after the hosts’ Bodymoor Heath training ground was shut down due to an outbreak.