Date: 30th August 2011 at 11:29pm
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Wednesday bowed out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last night, but most of the talk, from Owls fans at least, surrounded Gary Megson’s ‘bending of the rules’.

I say bending of the rules, he didn’t really bend them at all, he didn’t break them, but yet there’s talk of a possible fine of up to £5,000 for the Owls as a result of the antics.

The Owls boss made three substitutions inside 17 minutes in the JP Trophy first round clash at Bradford City, which saw the Bantams progress thanks to a penalty shoot-out success after the game ended 0-0 after 90 minutes.

Were the players injured? Unlikely, judging by the laughter on the Owls bench after both David Prutton and Jose Semedo were hauled off early on. It came after Nicky Weaver, the Wednesday stopper, was substituted after just two minutes.

The reason? The most likely, which has been all-but confirmed by Megson, is that the Owls manager wanted to rest some of his better players from a competition which is way down the pecking order this season.

League rules state that clubs must play at least six players that started the last league outing, or that will start the next league game.

Rule 7.3 for the competition states that: 7.3 Each Club shall play its full available strength in all matches. The Board will from time to time issue a policy as to what constitutes ‘full available strength’. Any Club failing to meet this requirement will be required to pay a fine of up to £5,000.

They go on to say: For the 2010/11 season onwards, full available strength means: (a) A Club must include in its starting line-up at least 6 out of the 11 players who started the Club fixture immediately preceding or following the relevant Johnstone’s Paint Trophy fixture; or (b) A Club must include in its starting line-up at least 6 out of 11 players who have made the most starting appearances in League and domestic Cup competitions fixtures during that season.

Ideally, Megson would have rested possibly his entire starting eleven, but with that not possible he made all three of his substitutions early on to save Weaver, Prutton and Semedo ahead of next Monday’s npower League One clash at Charlton Athletic.

Was it a wise move? Yes, given Wednesday’s previous outings in the lower-league competition, and given that the priority is very much with the league this season.

Megson has a squad to choose from, and the reason for a squad is to make sure players can cope with the numerous matches and competitions they’ll play in throughout the season.

The clash at Valley Parade was Wednesday’s eighth of the season and August hadn’t even ended. For a club desperate for promotion from League One this season, and desperate to keep players fit and available ahead of a huge game less than a week later, it was a ‘no brainer’.

Given that Megson also fielded a much weaker team at Blackburn Rovers in the Carling Cup – a more prestigious competition – it was also a no brainer that he’d want to do the same in the JP Trophy. It’s ridiculous that such rules are in place for the competition, when there are no such rules in either the Carling Cup or FA Cup.

With that all said and done – Wednesday still didn’t break any rules. They started with the correct number of players that rules state. If it was cricket, maybe it wouldn’t be in the ‘spirit of the game’, but it isn’t.

As for disrespecting the fans that went along to the game, ourselves included, I’d hazard a guess that none of the travelling Wednesdayites expected us to field a strong side for a competition that many of us realise is last on the pecking order.

If anything, it was nice to see a couple of young players blooded, and it’s a great competition to do that. Players such as Ayo Obileye and Cecil Nyoni got useful run-outs.

We’ll wait and see if the league decide if they can fine Wednesday. If the worst does come to the worst, it’s a £5,000 fine. I think Milan can sort that. As nice as it always is to see Wednesday win, hopefully the early exit will allow some extra time to prepare for the more vital league matches this season.

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