Reporter: MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 08 October 2013
Latics short of trophy options
ATHLETIC’S right-back troubles could result in a new formation for tonight’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy second-round tie at Preston (7.45pm kick-off).
Matteo Lanzoni has a torn hamstring and will be out for two weeks. With Connor Brown not ready to return after his knee injury and Carl Winchester away along with Kirk Millar with Northern Ireland’s under-21 squad, the most likely option to operate on the right flank appears to be captain Korey Smith.
With Joseph Mills impressing in an advanced role on the left — tonight is the final game of his current loan — Johnson may be persuaded to start with three centre-backs.
“We might have to adjust the shape or the personnel to slot someone in,” Johnson said before going on to hint at other possible changes.
“I really have to see the walking wounded. There are a few feeling a little sorry for themselves.”
Johnson is also without Edijs Joksts, who is on international duty with Latvia’s under-21 side.
In the Trophy, each club has to name at least six of the 11 players starting in either the previous game or the next fixture, or face sanction.
Danny Philliskirk is in line to feature once again up front after impressing in the draw with Leyton Orient, while David Mellor and Anton Rodgers come into contention for a midfield berth.
In goal, there could be a chance for Paul Rachubka to make his first appearance since joining the club on a short-term deal if Johnson opts to rest Mark Oxley.
“We have got a little group at the moment who are too good for the reserves, but need to make a real impact on League One,” the manager added. “They could have very good careers.”
Athletic performed superbly despite losing 2-1 at Deepdale a month ago in the league clash between the clubs and Johnson hopes that experience can be brought to bear.
“It is a good, big pitch which suits us and a lovely stadium,” he said of tonight’s venue.
“Preston are flying but we felt that though we didn’t win, we could have. Hopefully, the lads will use that to spur them to a victory.”
A win tonight will put Athletic in the hat for the Northern section quarter-finals on November 11.
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