BUSY Alex Smithies is ready to put in the miles to help keep Town’s FA Youth Cup bid on track.
On duty with the England Under 18 squad for the game against Ghana at Gillingham last night, he’ll be between the posts at Prenton Park this evening when Town tackle Tranmere Rovers in a second-round tie (3.00).
Up for grabs is a home third-round clash with Birmingham.
And Smithies, who was on the bench when Town won 1-0 in League I at Swansea on Friday, will be aiming to produce the same level of performance as he did in the first-round meeting with Hartlepool – but this time keep a clean sheet.
England’s World Under 17 Cup star produced a string of top-class saves against the North-Easterners as Graham Mitchell’s charges won 4-3 after extra time with a last-gasp headed goal by Leigh Franks.
Republic of Ireland age-group cap Dave Heagney, Spencer Harris, with a penalty, and Danny Broadbent got the other goals for Town, who were within a minute of winning in normal time before Pool’s Matthew Tymon completed his hat trick.
For Broadbent it will be a second outing at Prenton Park inside four weeks – and he’ll be hoping for a better outcome.
He made his first-team debut there in the 3-0 October 26 defeat by Tranmere.
Smithies was on the bench, as he has been on nine other occasions during the absence with a foot injury of fellow England age-group player Simon Eastwood.
A damaged metatarsal will keep Lewis Collinson out of contention tonight, but Town are hopeful fellow midfielder Luke Williams will respond to treatment on a calf strain.
The visitors can also call on defender Tom Jackson, who missed the Hartlepool clash because of suspension.
While Town drew 1-1 at Barnsley in their latest FA Premier Academy League clash – midfielder Jack Hunt got the goal – Tranmere, who are coached by former player Shaun Garnett, beat Chester 2-1 in the Youth Alliance, which is a level below on the junior ladder.
Town were 2-0 winners over Tranmere in a pre-season friendly, but director of football development Gerry Murphy warned: “They’re a decent side who like to play a bit of football.
“We’ve done or homework on them and prepared well. Now it’s down to how the lads respond tonight.”
Town: Smithies, Pickering, Jackson, Brook, Harris, Franks, Codman, Nightingale, Roberts, Spencer, Williams, Broadbent, Heagney, Barlow, Pert, Ridehalgh, Hunt, Durham.