Frustrated Wanderers boss Ian Evatt has questioned why tonight’s EFL Trophy game against Stockport County should go ahead with several of his players out on international duty.
Missing the likes of Carlos Mendes Gomes, Josh Sheehan, Dion Charles, Eoin Toal and Zac Ashworth, along with injured players like Will Forester, Kyle Dempsey and George Johnston, Bolton will be severely under-strength for the final group game at Edgeley Park.
After winning the trophy last season, Wanderers won their previous two group games against Salford City and Manchester United’s Under-21s to guarantee their place in the knockout round.
But faced with a Stockport side that has won its last 13 games in all competitions, Evatt believes his club has been dealt a bad hand by being unable to move the fixture.
“Stockport are a good team on a great run,” he said. “We are depleted, and it is frustrating, from my point of view, because we have tried to take this competition very seriously. Obviously, there was proof last season when we won it.
“We always play a strong team but when you are losing players on an international break, I do feel it is a bit unfair that we still have to play the game with some of our best players missing. It devalues it – but that is another argument.
“We will put together a team as best as we can and go there to try and win the game.”
Ex-Wolves and Rochdale wing-back Luke Matheson is in line for a start and the likes of Ben Andreucci, Sam Inwood and Noah Halford could also be drafted into the main squad to cover for missing personnel.
Wanderers have had three League One games postponed for international call-ups this season, which has contributed to them playing catch-up at the top of the table.
Evatt is disappointed that the EFL Trophy does not fall under the same remit.
“We didn’t have an option to move the game,” he said. “And I don’t think that is right.
“Everyone moans to us about taking this competition seriously and they put rules in place to make sure clubs play a strong team. We won the whole thing last season from doing exactly that.
“But we are penalised now because we have several internationals who can’t play in the game, which being honest is frustrating. You can’t have it both ways – it is having your cake and eating it. They want us to play the game but also want us to pick a strong team, so let us do that by not having the internationals away, which they are at the moment and it coincides with this competition.
“It seems contradictory – but it is what it is, and we’ll go there to do the best we can.”
Stockport’s winning run goes back to September 9, and has helped them climb five points clear at the top of League Two.
Dave Challinor’s side beat Salford 3-1 and also won a penalty shoot-out against Manchester United’s kids in the group, which means they have to win the game outright to finish top and claim a guaranteed home game in the next round.