SELIM Benachour is set to give youth a chance in tonight's Papa John's Trophy tie with Wigan Athletic.

The league is becoming an increasing priority for a team that is propping up League Two with less than half of the season to go.

But with the pressure off in the League Trophy, and more freedom to play, Latics have found some form.

Having finished second in their group behind Tranmere, they were handed a knockout tie away to Sunderland on December 1.

Latics had already fared well against League One opposition in the FA Cup, taking Ipswich to a first round replay. But against the trophy holders it was expected that journey would end at the Stadium of Light.

However a superb strike from Harry Vaughan was enough to separate the sides and cause an upset.

And Benachour, who almost six weeks ago stepped up from his role in the club's Academy to take interim charge of the first team, is set to put his faith in some of the youngsters he was previously working with on day-to-day basis previously.

While there have been a number of covid postponements throughout the Football League over the festive period, there have been no let-up for Latics, who fulfilled three fixtures in six days from Boxing Day to New Year's Day.

After the goalless draw which kickstarted 2022, Benachour noted that his players looked tired.

So with another game just four days away he said he would use the break from league action to utilise more of his squad and potentially give some more of the club's rising stars a run-out.

In previous Papa John's Trophy games, Benny Couto made his senior debut against Leeds Under 21s and went on to be awarded his first senior contract after impressing, while Isaac Modi was on the bench against Sunderland, gaining vital experience being in and around the first team despite not making an appearance.

And Benachour is predicting a similar encounter to that at the Stadium of Light when they host Wigan at Boundary Park tonight (kick-off 7pm)

"It's a good team who like some space, I think it will look like the Sunderland game," said Benachour, who will make changes to the team which has earned back-to-back goalless draws in the league.

"I will rest some players and I will bring some fresh legs on. We need to keep working hard and to start to win games because we need to win games.

"This cup is very important to the club and Saturday is a very important game at home.

"It's not easy to play every three days, travelling and playing. It was difficult, I see my players get tired. It was difficult for them to play and to be strong. We need our physio now and the players need to recover quickly."

Wigan have not played since December 18 due to Covid cancellations, while Hartlepool had gone 15 days without a fixture before resuming on Boxing Day. And Benachour observed that there was an obvious difference between the teams on New Year's Day.

"Hartlepool had been two weeks without a game so they were fresher than us and we could see that," he said.

"They dominated sometimes in the second half, they had control of the game. But we had some chances on the counter attack but were not clinical, we need to work on that. We need to be positive.

"We have taken two points in two games away, against strong teams, so we need to build on that."

It is not the first time Latics have come up against Wigan in the last six months, having hosted Leam Richardson's side in a pre-season friendly. Wigan ran out 2-1 winners but Latics gave a good account of themselves, with summer signing Hallam Hope celebrating a headed goal.

And while the league is the obvious priority for Latics this season, Benachour said the trophy cannot be dismissed and can contribute to building momentum if they can get a positive result.

"This cup is very important to the club and Saturday (against Sutton) is a very important game at home," he said.

"Tuesday (tonight) we will make some changes, I will bring in some young players and I will make some changes to refresh my players because they need it.

"We need to recover."