So, we play Carlisle in the Checkatrade Trophy at the SOL tonight and due to injuries, suspensions and international duty the following players are unavailable: Josh Maja, Jerome Sinclair, Duncan Watmore, Charlie Wyke, Glenn Loovens, Lynden Gooch, Donald Love, Bryan Oviedo, Tom Flanagan, Jon McLaughlin, Bali Mumba, Max Power, Denver Hume and Lee Cattermole.
Thankfully, the following are available: Robbin Ruiter, Adam Matthews, Alim Ozturk, Jack Baldwin, Reece James, Chris Maguire, Dylan McGeouch, George Honeyman, Luke O'Nien, Aiden McGeady, and Ethan Robson.
Jack Ross has been previewing the game: “Ordinarily you would look to freshen up the group slightly. We did that against Stoke U21s [in the previous game in this competition], while keeping a relatively strong core of the team. But we have 14 first-team players unavailable tomorrow, which leaves us with 11 – including the goalkeeper – first teamers. That's it. They will be supplemented by U23 players, and you also have to consider that our more experienced U23 players such as Luke Molyneux and Elliot Embleton are out on loan. We're pretty stretched, but we've still got enough players to put a good team out on the pitch. Benji Kimpioka is going away with Sweden, but he is with us for the game tonight which is good because we would be short otherwise! I think he flies out on Wednesday, but he is definitely with us tonight. There are some that need games. With not having a game this Saturday, I can push one or two players because there is no game for 10 days afterwards. Guys like Reece James, Aiden McGeady, Adam Matthews to an extent, and others who haven't played that regularly this season could do with the minutes. It won't do them any harm, and they know they have a break afterwards which helps. Luke O'Nien's back and trained Monday but he has obviously been unwell for the best part of last week. He'll be part of the squad though.”
Ross’ thoughts on the Checkatrade Trophy? "It is a strange competition in some ways, but it is important we talk it up because of the prizes at the end of it. There are arguments to be had about the format of it and the challenges that brings. My only argument is that the tournament doesn't count towards suspensions, we have been over that ground before with Max. That is a fault in the competition. Other than that, I have no issue with it. It adds to a punishing schedule, but it is the same for every League One and League Two club involved in it. Anybody that came to the Stoke game knows we approached it properly. It will be the same for us tomorrow night. We don't have a game Saturday. The prize at the end is a good one, it is silverware as well. Our approach remains consistent. We have 14 players unavailable. We are so stretched because players are away on international duty, suspended or injured. There is a real mix why players are unavailable. We have 10/11 first-team players available. The team that will play is pretty much the one that can play! A lot of the players are unavailable. There are players who have had injuries or have not played a lot that would have played, your Bali Mumba's, but he is away with England. In terms of first players, we have 10 or 11 available, the rest will be U23 players. A lot of the stronger 23 players are out on loan. The positive to us being stretched is that we don't have a game on Saturday. Jerome has a slight hamstring problem from Saturday, Josh has had an ongoing ankle problem and to his credit has still been playing. Lee, it is just a maintenance one, he put a lot of effort into Saturday as well. It is 14 in total, quite a lot!"
Ross on Saturday’s win at Bradford and our recent red cards. "Saturday was a terrific game and the atmosphere, we are getting better at dealing with it too, we showed that again. I would argue the first [Power] one, we did appeal it, and that it wasn't a deserved red. If you take that out, the two in the consecutive games, they have been red card offences and are out of character for both players. It is Max's second of the season but it doesn't fit with his previous career history. They are mistakes, wrong decision made at the time by the player. It maybe a by-product of the intensity around our games at the moment. The season as a whole has been a period of learning constantly. The players deserve the credit, they have to deal with the difficulty of the situation. Saturday worked out as a good half hour being down to ten men, it is credit to their fitness, spirit and character as a whole group. It has been the same since day one. Every challenge they have responded well. It stands us in good stead. Whenever players have found themselves out the squad they have all grasped the opportunity when it does come, that reflects their ability but also their mindset. Every player that came off the bench made a really good contribution on Saturday, and I would highlight George Honeyman. His reaction, when we were down to ten men, was brilliant, he covered a lot of grass. There is a good healthy competition and good players respond to that and want to keep it and respond to it. I don't think League One is more physical particularly, there is a physicality to football at all levels. Just sometimes it is demonstrated in different ways. We have had more periods where you have to defend more frantically. Emotions may run slightly higher. I have a group that train in a very disciplined way every day. There is a group of players desperate to do well, it is a fine line to tread at times and not allow it to amount in moments of frustration. But we have only lost one game in 12. It concerns me enough to get better at it but we have been a good side this season. Those rewards in terms of clean sheets will come. You want to start to build that momentum. On the flip side, there is not often you get a breather in this league. Although we will have to squeeze the Blackpool game in it does mean we can get some rest into the players. We have reasons for it, our first choice goalkeeper would have been missing for Blackpool, Tom Flanagan too, we would have had players short. All in all, it is not a bad thing for us [the break]."
Ross also chatted about Benji Kimpioka, who is expected to start, up front, tonight. "It's so hard to have regular contact with the younger players, even because of the way we train and everything - it's not terrific from that point of view. So when he came into my squad in pre-season he played wide, but I've watched as many of the U23 games as I can get to and now I think he is probably better suited to playing in a more central role because he is so off-the-cuff. When I've watched him for the U23s, he can have spells where he has two or three minutes of doing brilliant things, and then two or three minutes where we don't see him. He's young, he's still learning, and I like him - I think he's got good attributes. He's pretty laid-back and he has got something about him, I think you can see that. He's been in and around the squad for the last two or three games and the Checkatrade Trophy gives him another opportunity to get some more game time at first-team level."