Shrewsbury Town prepare for their first competitive fixture since March as they battle Championship outfit Middlesbrough in the Carabao Cup.
The coronavirus outbreak has wreaked havoc on the footballing calendar, with the latest anomaly being a League Cup curtain-raiser.
No spectators will be in the Riverside Stadium in order to comply with public health restrictions; but the return of competitive action does signal a return to something resembling normality.
Shrewsbury’s squad looks rather different with the addition of five new players. Josh Daniels, Rykiel Pyke, Scott High, Marlon Fossey, and Matija Sarkic will be hoping to make their debuts tomorrow evening.
Town’s highest profile departure was Josh Laurent who left for Championship side Reading, whilst Joe Murphy, Romain Vincelot, and Omar Beckles are other first team personnel to leave.
Elsewhere, Sam Ricketts has revealed he will be without Ollie Norburn for the foreseeable future. The midfielder underwent knee surgery prior to lockdown and no timescale has been provided for his return.
Fellow midfielder Josh Vela will not be available due to a suspension being carried over after he saw red in the 3-2 defeat to Oxford. Otherwise, Shrewsbury Town have not reported any other selection issues.
It is the first time these sides have met in a first team fixture since January 2012. A solitary goal from Dutchman Marvin Emnes was enough to seal Boro’s fourth round passage in the FA Cup. Town’s previous victory against their Friday opponents was a 2-1 success in May 1986, whilst they have never beaten Middlesbrough away from home.
Boro boss Neil Warnock will take charge of his 1,490th game as a manager with a defensive dilemma. Grant Hall and Dael Fry are the only centre-backs with real Championship experience in the squad after a string of departures with the likes of Daniel Ayala, Ryan Shotton, George Friend, and Harold Moukoundi exiting the North East.
That presents an opportunity for a host of youngsters to stake a claim for a starting birth, including Sam Stubbs – the son of former Everton defender Alan.
Hayden Coulson (illness) is unlikely to play – but Neil Warnock has revealed the former St Mirren loanee does not have COVID-19. Dael Fry is now back in the mix after missing the pre-season trip to Cornwall due to being in quarantine.
Marcus Browne who scored against Shrewsbury whilst on loan at Oxford in March is eyeing a start.
The game will kick-off at 5.30pm on Friday.
Possible Line Ups
42. Pears, 29. Spence, 25. Wood, Hall, 27. Bola, 10. Browne, 16. Howson, 22. Saville, 21. Johnson, 11. Fletcher, 36. Walker
Subs: 6. Fry, 7. Tavernier, 9. Assombalonga, 17. McNair, 26. Wing, 30. Stojanovic, Stubbs
Shrewsbury Town: (4-3-3)
43. Burgoyne, 2. Pierre, 24. Ebanks-Landell, 5. Williams, 22. Goss, High, 4. Edwards, Daniels, 7. Whalley, 23. Udoh, 35. Cummings
Subs: 3. Golbourne, 12. Sears, 15. Walker, 17. Love, Pyke, Fossey, Sarkic