Tomorrow night’s Checkatrade Trophy Southern Group F game at home to Barnet will give Nathan Jones the opportunity to “freshen” his squad up ahead of a tough month of fixtures in Sky Bet League Two, according to the Hatters boss.
The Town host the Bees in a 7.45pm kick-off, looking to add to the two points they picked up in the group opener in mid-August against Tottenham Under-21s, when a 2-2 draw was followed by a bonus-point winning penalty shoot-out.
The Hatters face a tough trip to third-placed Accrington Stanley on Saturday, before facing another three teams currently in the promotion and play-off places – Stevenage, Exeter and Coventry – as well as a trip to Crawley before October closes with another Checkatrade Trophy game at AFC Wimbledon.
“It’s come at a good time for some, because some need a game, but we’ll have a strong side tomorrow night,” said Jones when asked if it’s a good opportunity to give game time to players who haven’t played as much of late.
“We’ll freshen the squad up and we’ll freshen the team up because we’ve got to. We’ve got a big month coming up now, so we’ve got to make sure we are ready and raring to go, but we want to win the game, end of story.
“We’ll be as strong as we possibly can tomorrow in terms of the personnel we put out. It’s a competition we enjoy.”
Jones will be without midfielder Luke Gambin, who has played the last three league matches but is currently away on international duty with Malta.
He will have the option of playing Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, who is currently serving a three-match ban, as the Checkatrade Trophy does not count towards suspensions, while Luke Berry is available again after sitting out three games.
Johnny Mullins is one player who has recently been injured but will come back into contention, with Jones saying: “Johnny needs minutes. He’s a first team player and Johnny will need to get minutes in the coming weeks.
“Whether that’s tomorrow or not is one thing, but there’s a few, and obviously we’ve got one or two coming back from suspension as well.”
Right-back James Justin is another who could benefit from a run-out after an injury sustained with England U19s in the summer delayed his return to pre-season training, and then, due to the form of Jack Stacey, he has had limited time on the pitch so far this term.
On whether the 19-year-old – who came on as an 85th-minute substitute in Saturday’s win over Newport – is ready to play a full game now, Jones said: “I think he’s there now. He played 90 against Brentford the other day, so he’ll need to come through that barrier.
“He’s a fit lad anyway, he’s injury-free, no problems whatsoever in terms of training, so we’ll be looking for him to get back at it.
“It was nice for him to get a little 10-12 minutes cameo at the weekend, defend well, see the game out very, very well, with Jack Stacey in front of him.”
TICKETS for tomorrow night’s game are available at £5 for adults and £1 for Under-16s. The Main Stand and Main Stand Enclosure is open for home fans with cash turnstiles in operation at the Maple Road and Kenilworth Road entrances.