Page still expects weakened Cobblers to strike a Hammer blow in Checkatrade Trophy at Sixfields
Rob Page is making no secret of the fact he will field a weakened team for Tuesday night's Checkatrade EFL Trophy clash with West Ham United Under-21s - but has promised any supporters planning to go Sixfields he is still committed to winning the match.
Town entertain the Hammers youngsters in a dead rubber in the group stage of the competition, with rivals Wycombe Wanderers and Coventry City both already through to the knockout stage.
The EFL’s revamp of the Football League Trophy has been a controversial one, with the U21 sides of Premier League and Championship clubs joining a competition which has traditionally only been for lower league clubs.
Across the country supporters have made it clear what they think of the revamp by simply not going to games, and it will be intriguing to see how many supporters are prepared to turn up at Sixfields on Tuesday.
Only the west and south stands will be open, and it has to be a doubt the attendance will match the 1,408 that turned up to watch Town’s other home group game against Wycombe in August.
Page admits there ‘is nothing to play for’ as far as the team is concerned, but says the fixture will still be important to those Town players given the chance to play.
Town are definitely without Gaby Zakuani and Kenji Gorre as they are on international duty, while Jak McCourt has been ruled out due to the neck injury he picked up at the weekend.
Page has to pick five players who featured in Saturday’s FA Cup win over Harrow, but has already declared he will be making as many changes as possible.
It means there could be game time for the likes of Davdi Cornell, Alfie Potter, Harry Beautyman, Joel Byrom, Aaron Phillips, Lawson D’Ath and Rod McDonald.
Asked why supporters should make the effort to get to Sixfields on Tuesday, Page said: “It’s another game for us.
“It is another game, and we want to go into every game and win every game.
“Am I fielding my strongest 11? No. But we do want to win every game.
“We have to prioritise though, and Gaby is away on international duty, Kenji is away, we have Jak injured, and we have to try and protect the other players as well.
“As was the case for the Coventry game when we had to go to the league leaders Scunthorpe four days later, we go to Gillingham on Saturday and there are three points at stake for us there.
“We are doing okay in the league, we are in the top six, but I feel we can push on from there and to do that I am going to need every eligible for Saturday, and not for a fixture when there is nothing to play for.”
But the Welshman added: “We have to be professional about our work as we were on Saturday.
“As much as we say, and I have said it myself, that there is nothing on the game, there is everything on it for the players individually.
“It is an opportunity for those selected to go and play and give a good acount of themselves to make my job harder for Saturday, and they can do that, they can influence it.
“It is a chance for players to shine, to show what they are capable of, and to show me they are ready to step in when needed.”