Andrew Smithson says...
I think Lee Johnson can make a few changes and still put out a team that is competitive; it was only a couple of weeks ago that some of our U23s played at Tranmere Rovers, who are in the same division as Port Vale, and gave a decent account of themselves after all. That said, I think he might still want to name a more familiar side just to make sure lads are fully match-fit and to allow players to build up an understanding. You can only do so much in training and Johnson has already said that the best way to get Aiden McGeady for example sharp is to give him minutes on the pitch.
The one change I really want to see though is Anthony Patterson in for Lee Burge, as unless you include the Papa John’s Trophy he is yet to play a senior game and we have to see if he is ready to step up should he be needed.
I’d like to see Elliot Embleton involved as well, as I think he has looked good in pre-season and on Saturday so would love to see him carry it on. His Sunderland career has been a bit stop-start for one reason or another but he has proved himself elsewhere and if we are to get the best out of him here he needs to be given a fair crack and a decent run of games.
Kelvin Beattie says...
It's an interesting dilemma for LJ and team, apart from the players with knocks/ injuries there could be a reasonable argument for fielding nigh-on the same team as Saturday and give them another competitive game to get into their groove with each other’s game and formation. Also to try and best ensure we keep the winning run going.
If it was my choice though, I would l give Pritchard some game time in his preferred no 10 position. Younger and Wright should play to give them competitive game time and I would play Patterson in goal to keep him keen and focused. I would not overplay McGeady or Ross Stewart in these cup games. I might be tempted to give Dyce a run at left-back and let Neil have a run out in his preferred position. Hawkes too would figure somewhere in the match, as we shuffle the pack to give youngsters a good go and keep the first 11 players fresh.
Mark Carrick says...
It’s perhaps important to maintain a winning run and breed confidence in players such as Embleton, Stewart and Neil. Although I’d like to see Dan Neil moved into midfield, at the expense of either O’Nien or (drop Luke deeper and rest) Evans.
It would be advantageous to see Hawkes and Diamond in place of McGeady and Gooch to give them game time, and, for the same reason, Wright and Younger at the heart of the defence. Patterson in goal would be a final change, although Flanagan would move to left-back in the re-jigged formation.
Getting as many first-team players as possible involved in the first week and, hopefully, continue the positive work of pre-season is essential to build a successful platform for the campaign ahead.
Malc Dugdale says...
I’d be happy to see widespread changes from Saturday’s first 11, as we need another 29 wins to go up, and this season is going to be as long and hard as the last 2-3.
I expect to see Patterson in nets, and it will be interesting to see what Lee Johnson does to investigate his options, after the injury to Winchester who has been ably deputising at right-back. Hopefully, his injury will be ok for next weekend, but cup games are an ideal scenario to try other, including younger, options we do have. Wright will likely start too, as he needs minutes in case we do need him/he doesn’t leave as it is suggested he may.
In the middle, I would rest Evans, O’Nien and Embleton and play our younger options in place of all of them. Cover left-back with youth, and push Neil up the pitch and bring in Pritchard (who needs minutes to get Covid out of his lungs), and we will still likely do OK.
Out wide and upfront, as mentioned in other items I expect Grigg and Diamond to both feature, and with the Loch Ness Drogba our sole realistic attacking threat right now (as I don't rate OBrien much at all really), we need those lads to get going on the scoresheet between them.
I’ll finish this input by adding that if we play a load of alternate player options and don't win, I don't care whatsoever. Everything we do and every moment of our focus needs to be on the league. I don’t give a hoot if we don’t see a full Wembley early next summer in any cup comp, I just want 30 wins, 90 points and a ticket up the divisions.