Altrincham's Wembley dreams have been cruelly dashed after they were forced to forfeit their Buildbase FA Trophy tie against Havant & Waterlooville due to one Robins player contracting COVID-19.
The single positive test, and the knock-on effect of close contact with several other players, was enough to prevent the fourth-round meeting going ahead at the Vanarama National League South's Draper Tools Community Stadium on Saturday.
Alty bosses desperately tried to salvage the tie by contacting the authorities and exploring the possibility of rearranging it for later next week.
But they reluctantly had to concede defeat after the National League informed them that next Friday would be the earliest they could play and added that it would fall outside the postponement window for an alternative date.
Even sending a mixture of youth and reserve players down to the south coast was never feasible.
There were so many issues that counted against it, not least the club’s COVID officer and kit man having to self-isolate and difficulty finding enough players with at least some recent game time behind them to make up some sort of scratch team.
The near-£2,000 cost of a coach for the 500-mile round trip was another consideration, but it was far outweighed by the drain on playing resources caused by COVID stipulations.
A number of reserves and juniors was all that remained for putting together a patched-up team, but their lack of match action, or even time on a training pitch, in recent weeks counted against that, as did the overriding factor that the players' health and safety is first and foremost in the club's thoughts.
All avenues exhausted, the club were left with no option but to forfeit the tie and accept that the path to Wembley had been blocked off by an opponent beyond their control, an untimely and unfortunate end to the team's sterling efforts in the competition so far.