It’s a break from league action this weekend as Rovers make the short trip to the DW Stadium to take on Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup. Daniel Ainsworth previews the match below.
Tony Mowbray’s side began the New Year with a goalless draw at home to Huddersfield Town, and now they will look to keep their unbeaten run going, one that has seen that climb to second in the Championship table.
The FA Cup provides the opportunity for managers to rest their key players and gives the fringe players the opportunity to impress, and Rovers will look to give some of their first team a rest, although keeping momentum going will be important to Mowbray and the side.
They face a Wigan Athletic side that sits third in League One (with games in hand on the top two), and will provide a tough test.
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Managed by former Rover Leam Richardson, the Latics look in good shape to return to the Championship for the first time since their relegation in 2020.
Forward Will Keane leads the scoring charts with six goals for Wigan this season, whilst James McLean – who has had some frosty encounters with Rovers in years gone by – has been impressive since his return to the DW Stadium.
For Rovers, as mentioned earlier, it will be a balance of keeping the run going for the 3,500-strong away following, as well as giving some of the fringe players minutes.
Daniel Ayala’s lack of game time over the past couple of months is testament to how well the first eleven have been performing, and it is expected that the Spaniard will feature in this tie.
It is also expected the likes of Tayo Edun, Bradley Johnson and Sam Gallagher will be given time from the start, but could we see some of the club’s brightest talents given a chance?
The likes of Harry Leonard and Jake Garrett are tied down to long-term deals with the club, with both showing excellent potential, and we could see the duo’s competitive debuts.
FA Cup rules allow five substitutes on a bench of nine players, providing the extra opportunities for the younger players.
I’m expecting a tight match between the sides, but one that sees Rovers progress thanks to a strong starting eleven, with the younger players given a chance towards the end.
Predicted XI: Pears, Rankin-Costello, Carter, Ayala, van Hecke, Edun, Johnson, Davenport, Butterworth, Gallagher, Dolan
Prediction: Wigan Athletic 1-2 Rovers