Wanderers will be out to book their place in the knock-out rounds of the EFL Trophy with a game to spare when they face Manchester United’s U21s tonight (Tuesday).
Ian Evatt’s men know victory over United’s youngsters at the Toughsheet Community Stadium (KO 7.45pm) will guarantee them a top-two spot in Group E as they took to maintain their grip on the trophy.
The holders – who famously beat Plymouth Argyle at Wembley in April to win the competition – overcame Salford City 3-0 in their first group game and now face a United side which took the extra point from a penalty shoot-out win over Stockport County in their opener to sit second behind Wanderers in the group.
“It will be a challenge. They will be technical, energetic and will relish coming here,” said Evatt, who guided the Whites to a 4-0 win over United’s U21s in the last-16 last season en route to the final.
“They have got a lot of talent and you have to have the right energy and attitude to match that.
“We want to try and defend this trophy so we will be going all out to try and win. It’s an opportunity for us to progress. I believe if we win it does more or less seal our place in the next round, so that’s our aim and focus.”
Maximum points – with one game to go at Stockport in November – would also enhance Wanderers’ chances of finishing in top spot in the group and booking a home tie when the knock-out phase of the competition begins.
The Whites will therefore be looking for a sixth home win of the season in all competitions before resuming their League One campaign at Port Vale on Saturday.
Top scorer Dion Charles and midfielder Kyle Dempsey may be rested to protect knocks they are carrying and Evatt may include several youngsters in his squad as he looks to keep Wanderers firing on both fronts over the next couple of weeks.
“It’s no secret that we are seriously depleted at the moment,” added the Whites’ boss, who will have Gethin Jones and George Thomason available before they are suspended for Saturday’s trip to Vale Park.
“We’ve got a lot of injuries and we’ve got players who are playing with injuries and niggles as well.
“We’re just trying to manage this spell to get us to the other side of the international break. If we can do that, I believe the majority, if not all – apart from George Johnston – will be back and available and we can really kick on.
“For now, we just need to get ourselves through these next four fixtures, which start tonight and the next three league games.
“There will be some chances to get game time for a few players. We’ve got players that have been playing with injuries, so we need to try and get them rehabilitated for Saturday to get them through that game.
“There will be opportunities and as I’ve said all along, football is about opportunities and you have to be ready to take them.”
Watch the manager’s full pre-match interview on Wanderers TV HERE
Tickets for tonight’s game priced just £10 for adults and £5 for over-65s and under-18s are available to buy, with details HERE