The second ‘leg’ of Rovers cup and trophy double header at Glanford Park takes place tonight. The Papa John’s Trophy may have its dissenters, but Wellens – with good reason – is not one of them.
But in terms of his selection, he must be pragmatic and not take any risks with the fitness of senior players ahead of the priority business of league matters, which resume at home to Lincoln City on November 20.
Tom Anderson, Jordy Hiwula, Joe Dodoo, Kyle Knoyle and Matt Smith trained yesterday, with Rovers’ numbers boosted by the presence of several youth players who could be involved tonight. In all, 15 first-teamers didn’t train.
The Rovers chief, whose side will progress to the knock-out stages if they beat the Iron, said: “There are a couple who we could possibly risk. But then it is ‘risk-reward’ for Lincoln and that game is the most important.
“Of course, we do want to progress and want to go through. But if you have got a fully-fit squad, you know even if you pick one or two injuries up, you have a few people behind them.
“But we are literally now at the point now where we are down to the bare bones.”
Just as FA Cup progression at Scunthorpe on Saturday boosted Rovers’ coffers by over £22,000, so getting to the next stage of the EFL Trophy would also bring financial rewards to the club.
Wellens himself has some glorious history with the competition, having won it at Salford City in the delayed 2019-20 final at Wembley and it retains a place in his affections.
He continued: “If you can get through the group stages, the prize money is good and I think you are three games away from Wembley. It is a competition I have won as a player (with Blackpool twice) and manager.
“We’re never going to win the FA Cup or Carabao Cup, so the only realistic competition we can win is this cup – other than that, it’s the play-offs. So this is a big chance for us to get to Wembley, so why not try and take it.
“The dream is to get a Sunderland, Ipswich or Portsmouth at Wembley and then you have an opportunity to play in front of 70 or 80,000 so I don’t think you can turn your nose up at it.”