Fringe players get big chance to make Capital

First published in Sport The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , chief football writer

CHRIS Eagles hopes tonight’s trip into the unknown will be an occasion to savour for Wanderers ’ young stars.

Several players are set to be handed their first start of the season at Crawley Town’s Broadfield Stadium, which could mean a full debut for the likes of Gregg Wylde and Benik Afobe.

Andy Lonergan – a more experienced campaigner – should also get his first competitive game since signing from Leeds United in the summer.

And while this may be viewed as a chance for some of Owen Coyle’s peripheral players to stake a claim – Eagles has moved to diffuse some of the pressure they may be feeling to perform against Richie Barker’s upwardly mobile League One side.

“I have known the gaffer four or five years and in the cup he always gives the players who are not playing a chance,” he said.

“It’s difficult for them because it feels like they have got to go out and prove themselves. But that’s not the case.

“They should go and enjoy it because it would be nice to go and get another win under our belts.

“It will be tough because I don't know too much about them. They’re the underdogs and they are going to come out flying.

“We haven’t got to concede an early goal and then see how it goes from there.”

Wanderers played three league games in six days last week and face a trip to Hull City on Saturday.

But Eagles isn’t complaining about the workload – and will be happy to see his own name on the team sheet tonight.

“I don’t know who said the cup is a distraction you don’t need. That’s wrong,” he said.

“The best days are your playing days and the more games you play the better.

“The physical side is tiring. But I am sure if you look after yourself, rest and eat well, you recover and you’re fit to go.”

Eagles was part of Coyle’s Burnley team that reached the semi-finals of the League Cup in 2009, juggling their success in the competition with a journey to the play-off final.

“At Burnley, we played 63 games that season, and I played in 60 of them. It was tough. But it’s what you love to do,” recalled Eagles.

“We just had 17 players at Burnley who played almost every game. It was tough but it was good because we got to the semi-finals.

“So, it would be great to have a good cup run, though the main intention is to go up in the league.

“Tuesday, we will take it seriously because we want to get through to the next round. But our main focus is to get promotion.”

Eagles has made a good start to the current campaign with two goals in three appearances.

He was unable to make a return to his former club at Turf Moor on the opening day after missing a couple of days’ training because of a family funeral – but has since kept Martin Petrov out of the team on the left flank.

And while he accepts Wanderers’ start has been far from perfect, Eagles has pleaded for fans to show a little patience while the team adjust to life in the Championship.

“I’m sure if we played Burnley again, it would be a different game,” he said. “We’re only three games into the new season and we are just settling down.

“I could hear the crowd getting agitated against Forest but they have got to remember if they shout and scream at us, it doesn’t help.

“I am not the best person to speak about defending and the lads did give 100 per cent. But we do need to stop these errors because attacking-wise we look a threat against any team.

“It seems to be these little silly errors that we get punished for.”

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