Bristol Rovers targeting further momentum growth in winner-takes-all EFL Trophy clash at Newport
Source: Bristolpost

Although it's not a competition that is well-favoured by many Gasheads in its current format, Bristol Rovers will have the opportunity to progress to the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy tomorrow evening in a winner-takes-all clash away at League Two side Newport County.

Recently re-branded as the Bristol Street Motors Trophy, the competition has faced backlash from football supporters across the EFL since the decision to invite Category One academies and incorporate a group stage made in 2016. The idea of a Wembley final is one that excites many but the reputation of the once popular tournament amongst fans of League One and League Two clubs remains tainted.

If Rovers were to get to the final scheduled for April 7, it would be interesting to see how many Gasheads made the trip to the national stadium. It's one thing boycotting a competition during the early stages but to avoid the opportunity to see the famous blue-and-white quarters take to the hallowed turf of Wembley could prove too good to turn down.

With the depth available in the Rovers squad, the two starting XIs fielded in the EFL Trophy so far this season have been of relative strength and when speaking to media after Saturday's 1-0 win at Carlisle United, caretaker manager Andy Mangan insisted he will try to name a strong side out of respect for the competition.

"What will influence my team selection is just how the bodies come out of today," the interim boss said after a hard-fought victory in Cumbria. "The lads who haven't played today, your Sam Finley's, LT, Scotty Sinclair, players unable to get on the field here today. We're got a really strong squad and I'm sure we'll be able to field a strong squad. We'll just have to make sure that the bodies are okay. [It's] another game we can go and win. We're in good form and want to stay that way."

The 37-year-old is set to take charge of game number five of his interim spell but it is extremely likely to be his last in the dugout in such circumstances with the Gas' next game not for nearly two weeks when they travel to Derby County in the league on November 25. With the home game against Fleetwood Town scheduled for Saturday now postponed due to international call-ups in the opposition camp, there will now be a period of 10 days between matches for managerial speculation to be put to bed and work to be done on the training pitch as well as some time for rest and recovery.

Mangan is still understood to be in strong contention to be offered the job on a permanent basis while former Sheffield Wednesday boss Garry Monk and ex-Oxford United head coach Karl Robinson are also believed to be amongst the alternative names in with a shout of being Joey Barton's successor.

A win in South Wales would extend Rovers' current unbeaten run across all competitions to six matches, five of which under the care of Mangan. It would also set up an away tie in the round of 32.

Rovers will be expected to make changes but should be able to field a strong side with the likes of Luke Thomas, Josh Grant, Scott Sinclair, Jevani Brown, James Gibbons and John Marquis either getting limited or no minutes on Saturday. Sam Finley also missed the game after picking up a fifth yellow card against Reading in midweek.

Meanwhile, Tristan Crama's suspension as a result of the red card shown for a professional foul doesn't carry over so the defender will be eligible. It is also unlikely that any players that missed Carlisle due to injury will be available on Tuesday with Grant Ward, Luke McCormick, Connor Taylor and Luca Hoole currently on the treatment table.

As for Newport, the Welsh side are currently 20th in the fourth tier. Coincidentally, they are also managed by former Gas manager Graham Coughlan, who spent just over a year in charge and led Rovers to the semi-final of this competition in the 2018/19 season.

Despite being three places above the relegation zone, the Exiles have a relatively healthy gap of six points and go into the tie in mixed form, winning three, drawing two and losing three of their last eight matches across all competitions.