Tony Mowbray surprised a lot of us – not least me – with his team selection on Thursday at Wigan, with the likes of Michut and Ba thrust into first-team action. It was great to see those lads flourish after so long on the periphery of the team – so, with this being our final festive game before a two-week break from league action, who will he name in the starting XI today?
Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson
Patterson will have been disappointed with Wigan’s goal, and he’s fortunate that mistake didn’t cost us. It’ll be interesting to see whether we bring in some experienced competition this month.
Defenders: Dan Ballard, Bailey Wright, Luke O’Nien
We went to a back three against Wigan, which we kind of need to with Bailey Wright in the team, and we’ll likely continue that today. The only question mark will be over Dan Ballard, who ideally wouldn’t play three games in such quick succession after so long out, but with no other defenders available, he’ll surely play. The fact it wasn’t a muscle injury that caused his absence makes it less of a risk, I guess – but he’s so important to us I’d prefer to err on the side of caution if at all possible.
Wing backs: Trai Hume, Jack Clarke
I thought Trai Hume was exceptional against Wigan, and will keep his place today, He was good going forward, solid defensively, and really looks a good prospect. On the other side, Clarke’s been a little out of form, but will likely start after being given a rest for a portion of Thursday’s game.
Midfield: Corry Evans, Eduoard Michut
Michut looked excellent against Wigan – he was neat and tidy on a potato patch of a pitch, and given he was withdrawn after an hour I expect him to start again today. Dan Neil probably had his best game of the season in a deeper role the other day, but he’s played a lot of football and struggled with cramp in the latter stages, so I think Evans will come in to replace him if fit. Jay Matete is another shout, and if either Evans or Michut aren’t 100%, it’s a good bet the ex-Fleetwood man will come in.
Attacking midfield: Amad, Patrick Roberts
Amad did more Amad things against Wigan, and Roberts was dangerous coming in from the left. I suspect Roberts will be given the nod if Ba – who was brilliant against Wigan – missed out due to injury. Another possibility of course is Jewison Bennette, who could come into the starting XI, but I think we’ll see him off the bench.
Striker: Ross Stewart
Mowbray sprang a bit of a surprise the other day by leaving Stewart on the bench, but with Simms going back to Everton the big man will certainly be back in the starting XI.