FLEETWOOD Town manager Micky Mellon admits he could have no choice but to field injured players on his team’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy debut at Rochdale tonight.
Mellon says his hand will be forced by the competition’s rules, which lay down that six ‘regulars’ must be included on the teamsheet.
Definitely ruled out of the first round tie in this knockout competition for League One and Two clubs are captain Steve McNulty and Jon Parkin, though Mellon would like to omit several others nursing minor knocks.
The Town boss told The Gazette: “McNulty pulled up in training on Monday with a strain and Parkin has a swollen knee. Neither of them will feature.
“But we have quite a few other niggles and players who need a rest, but some of them may have to play because of the rules.
“Youl Mawene has a knee injury; Damien Johnson has a cricked neck and can’t turn his head; Andy Mangan is still getting over the knock which forced him to miss the Burton game and Scott Davies has a bruised toe.
“But Scott is one of those who could have to play. I’d love to give Chris Maxwell a blast but I think Scott may have to get on with it and play to give us our six ‘regulars’.”
Keeper Maxwell is itching to make his Town debut but the Wales Under-21 international may have to be patient, though defender Ash Eastham is likely make his first appearance tonight following his loan move from neighbours Blackpool.
Mellon added: “Ashley will definitely be in the squad and may well make his debut.”
The manager admits the rules leave him mystified: “I have no idea who decides whether a player is a regular at this stage of the season, but obviously people who have played so far will have to be involved.”
The Town boss’ options are further restricted by the unavailability of Dean Howell, who serves his one-match ban following a red card in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Aldershot.
Mellon said of the incident: “The referee was a lot closer to it than I was, but it’s a double blow because you get punished twice – you concede a penalty (which Davies saved) and have a man sent off.”
The manager may not be able to make as many changes as he would like this evening but that doesn’t mean he is taking the tournament lightly. On the contrary, he insisted: “It’s a new competition for us and a fantastic opportunity to get to Wembley.
“That’s the prize for all teams and we are well aware of it.
“It will be difficult to achieve but we have a chance, so we will take it as seriously as we would any cup competiton.
“I’ll pick the strongest side I can and we’ll go all out to win the game.”
Town’s League Two rivals Dale recorded their first win of the season against Barnet on Saturday.
Ex-Town midfielder Peter Cavanagh missed that match with a calf strain and is again doubtful to face his former club, though the Fleetwood defence should come up against another old team-mate George Donnelly in the Dale attack.
Like Dale, who reached the northern quarter-finals of this regionalised competition last season, Town go into the match fresh from a first home win of the campaign and Mellon approaches the match in good heart.
He added; “We played very well against Aldershot and got a great result which we thoroughly deserved.
“We showed different qualities as a group when we went down to 10 men and that was great to see.”