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accrington 1000x500When Burnley were drawn away in the League Cup I think we might have expected to travel a little bit further to get to the game than we have with tonight’s visit to Accrington Stanley.

They are, by some distance, our closest Football League neighbours although I think it is fair to say that the rivalry is not the hostile one that you might associate with two clubs so close together, that, of course, is reserved for another club just a few miles further west.

It’s been said more than once, since the draw, that we’ve never played Accrington Stanley in a competitive fixture although we did play Accrington, one of the founder members of the Football League way back in the 1880s and 1890s.

Having said that, a trip to the Crown Ground (or the George Michael Stadium or whatever it is called now) is not a rare event for us. We’ve played countless pre-season friendlies there over the years. When they were a non-league side we would send our reserves but since they won promotion to the Football League there have been several first team encounters, the last of which in 2015 is probably best not to mention.

It’s a competition neither of us have ever won, but we have reached four semi-finals since the League Cup was introduced ahead of the 1960/61 season. Aston Villa beat us in the last four in that inaugural season and we’ve also gone out at the semi-final stage against Swindon (1968/69), Liverpool (1982/83) and Tottenham in that epic just eight seasons ago.

More recently, we’ve gone out at the first time of asking in the last two seasons, losing 1-0 at home to Sheffield Wednesday two years ago and by the same score last season at Port Vale.

There has been much debate as to what the team might be tonight. How many changes will we make? Will there be a change across the board with eleven changes?

Sean Dyche has said he will consider changes. Three years ago, his first full season in charge, he couldn’t at York because we simply didn’t have enough players.

Two seasons ago, our last in the Premier League, he made seven changes for the visit of Wednesday and a year ago there were just four changes for the game at Port Vale.

There have been strong hints that Aiden O’Neill, pictured, could get a start after making his Premier League bow against Liverpool, but other than that it is difficult to determine what the team might be although I suspect Jon Flanagan could get his first taste of action in our first team.

As for Accrington, they were so close to becoming a League One team at the end of last season. All they needed to do was win their last league game against Stevenage but even the 0-0 draw would have been enough for automatic promotion had Bristol Rovers not scored a stoppage time winner against Dagenham & Redbridge. That meant the play-offs and that’s when the lights went out for Stanley, literally. Having lost the first leg away to AFC Wimbledon 1-0, they took a 2-0 lead at home but were pegged back. It was Wimbledon who scored to go through in extra time and ultimately win promotion.

This season started well enough. They beat Doncaster at home on the opening day of the season and then went through in the League Cup, beating Bradford City on penalties after a 0-0 draw. But it’s not been quite so good since. They lost at Barnet, drew at Wycombe and were then beaten by Exeter at home on Saturday.

That’s left them with just four points from their four games but tonight they will turn their attentions to the League Cup and Burnley and they could include no fewer than three former Clarets in their side.

Striker Shay McCartan has been out injured since featuring in the first two games, but Steven Hewitt, his former Burnley team mate from that youth cup run five seasons ago, has been involved. Hewitt’s only start for Burnley came in this competition four years ago against Plymouth.

Alongside them is Chris Eagles. The now 30-year old, who has played for Bolton, Blackpool, Charlton and Bury since leaving us in July 2011, has been involved in all of their games and is set to line up against Burnley for the first time since February 2014 when he made his last ever home appearance for Bolton in a game we won 1-0 with a Sam Vokes goal.

The team news from Accrington is that McCartan could be fit enough to return but Eagles is an injury doubt after picking up a knock at Exeter. Terry Gornell and Scott Brown remain out of contention with groin and calf injuries respectively.

Their team against Exeter was: Aaron Chapman, Matthew Pearson, Mark Hughes, Omar Beckles, Seamus Conneely, Janoi Donacien, Arron Davies, Jordan Clark, Sean McConville, John O’Sullivan, Billy Kee. Subs. Elliot Parish, Callum Jones, Romuald Boco, Bastien Hery, Patrick Lacey, Steven Hewitt, Chris Eagles.

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