Shrewsbury Town v Newcastle U21s: Winning remains first priority for Sam Ricketts
Sam Ricketts may want to win tonight and his side may not play again for another 10 days – but the Town boss simply has to make changes tonight.
Shrewsbury have a big squad and, while that helps with strength in depth, it also means there is a group of players kicking their heels.
There are a number of players that have been out of the League One side in recent weeks who would have expected to have been more involved.
It’s a good headache for Ricketts to have but it is a headache nonetheless. No footballer doesn’t want to play. Leaving players on the bench, or even out of the 18, is not easy for any manager.
The EFL Trophy returns bringing one of the ‘invited’ academy sides to Montgomery Waters Meadow.
The competition is never a priority, but with no league fixture on Saturday Ricketts may be a little more inclined to start first teamers rather than give them a night off.
“We have to see. I want to win the game,” was Ricketts’ response when asked about making changes for the Group D tie.
“Again we’ll look at what attributes the team will need to go and win that game. We’ll approach it like any other, see the strengths and weaknesses, see where we are and who is ready because we want to win.”
The likes of Steve Morison, Dave Edwards and Shaun Whalley, all of whom would have expected to be regular fixtures in the Town team this season, will surely be included.
Morison, who made his loan from Millwall permanent shortly into the season, has not been included in any of the last three squads, finding himself bottom of the pecking order in the busy forward ranks.
Edwards and Whalley failed to get from the bench at Tranmere and both would benefit from run-outs, but won’t be satisfied until they force their way back into Ricketts’ first XI league thoughts.
It is credit to the squad the Shrews boss has built that he has such selection dilemmas.
None of Town’s first-choice midfield options have done much to deserve missing out.
There are other players desperate for minutes. Chelsea loanee Luke McCormick has been right on the periphery, as have academy graduates James Rowland and Ryan Barnett. But Ricketts only has so many positions to fill.
Scott Golbourne is likely to get some minutes at left wing-back while Romain Vincelot, if fit, will likely feature.
Like at Port Vale in the first group game, Brad Walker will probably slot into the heart of Town’s defence with Aaron Pierre and Omar Beckles on Grenada duty and Ethan Ebanks-Landell injured.
This stand-ins must impress in the opportunity in front of them tonight if they are to force Ricketts into a first-team re-think.