Team selection is hard when you haven’t got a deep squad to pick from.
We’re missing Sorensen and Montsma from the defence right now, plus House, Vale and Walker up top. There’s a likelihood that Adam Jackson will not feature tomorrow, as he tends to be on one game per week, so it does mean a little tinkering and rearranging for the visit of Wolves Under 21s.
There’s a lot at stake – defeat would almost certainly send us out of the competition, whilst a win would put us in a decent position to qualify. Wolves are no mugs, with a mix of their academy graduates likely to spend much of their career in non-league and potential first-team players. They don’t feel like an elite academy, like Man Utd or Man City, but they’re also a half-decent outfit. It means that an experimental side could be put out against them and get a result.
How can we experiment? Firstly, we can recall young players from National League loans, as we did with Jay Benn the other week. Benn is unlikely to feature – he’s been out of action for Solihull, and despite being one of the obvious candidates to come back, it’s unlikely we’ll see him tomorrow night. However, it doesn’t mean we won’t be recalling one of the other young players we have out on loan – dare I say, at least one.
Here is my experimental team that I’d play tomorrow night if I had our squad and were playing Football Manager 2023, which I’m not (I’m playing 2022, with moderate success).
My Experimental XI
Starting at the back, I think Jordan Wright is a sure-fire bet to start. I like Jensen, but I don’t think it is quite as cut and dried between him and Wright as it was Rushworth and Wright, so Jordan will be eager to get a decent run out.
The back three has to have a first-team face in, so I’d give Sean Roughan the left-sided position and Alex Mitchell the right side, resting O’Connor and Jackson. Roughan and Mitchell are both good defenders, the latter someone I’m eager to see more of in an Imps shirt. In the middle, I’d love to see young Hayden Cann drop into the side, recalled from a successful spell at Peterborough Sports for a one-night-only appearance.
That would leave Brown and Eyoma on either flank. Brown is almost certain to start, and he needs a good game to get a bit of confidence as I feel he’s lacking that right now. I’d prefer TJ in at right-sided centre-back, but given Benn’s fitness struggles, he won’t be recalled. That means giving TJ a shot at right wing-back, a position that might be a little alien to him – he played right back for us in 2020/21, but not wing-back. Still, it could be another string to his bow and a chance to showcase his talents.
Into the midfield, and it’s another chance for us to get some minutes into young Oisin in midfield. He’s a real talent, but he’s also young, and exposure in this competition is great. Honestly, anyone who tells you it’s a waste of time isn’t thinking about the wider contribution it makes to a player’s confidence and fitness. That’s why I’d pair him with Ted Bishop. Ted is a confidence player, and one good performance could kick him off again, as it did last August. There’s a chance in these sorts of games to get players on the ball, and young teams used to Premier League B football might afford Ted the sort of time he needs to do something special.
Ahead of him, it’s got to be Ali Smith in the advanced role, again looking to get minutes and maybe a bit of confidence. You’ll note I’ve got a 3-5-2 for tomorrow because I think it might be worth us seeing what Dylan Duffy is like through the middle. Young Dylan hasn’t been used as much this season, but when he has, it’s often been as a late sub up top. I’d be interested to see what he could do from the start there, just as an assessment of our options.
Finally, and this is a long shot, but why not recall Charley Kendall for the night and see what he can do with a start? Dagenham don’t have a game in midweek, and he started on the bench for them this weekend, so it might be a nice boost for him to get a start for us. If we didn’t want to pair him with Dylan, we could use Jovon as the big man and have him and Kendall as a typical big man/little man pairing.
Just for the record, I don’t think this will be the team we’ll start. I doubt we’ll recall Charley, and I suspect we’re more likely to be in a 3-4-3, with Makama, Duffy and perhaps Shodipo starting up top, with Smith and Gallagher in midfield, Brown and Burroughs at full backs with Cann, Mitchell and Eyoma at the back. Still, at least in a game where there’s £10,000 at stake, but little more, we can afford some players a chance to show what they can do.
My Expected XI