With a place in Europe at stake for the winners this is a somewhat surprising move. A club spokesman commented yesterday: "Unless we do this, it will be impossible to give our large 30 man first-team squad match experience." Unlike football, there is no requirement to field the strongest side available.
Hounslow's manager, Paul King, expressed his disappointment at Southgate's decision. "It is devaluing the competition. And it was for this very reason that during the summer clubs opposed the proposal to provide both European entries from the League. They might change their mind if drawn against Cannock in their first game. But, in any case, once the smell of Europe gets a bit closer I feel sure they will change their policy."
Southgate could have another difficult hurdle to jump if they go ahead with their intention of signing Kwan Browne, the exciting captain of Trinidad and Tobago. With two Australians and one South African already registered it will be necessary for them to de-register one player to keep within the rules of no more than three non-EU foreign players.
On maximum points, Southgate entertain Old Loughtonians tomorrow but will be without the midfielder Danny Kerry who is absent on coaching duties with the England Under-18 squad.
Cannock will be without their 19-year-old international Mike Johnson, who has a hamstring injury, for their visit to Canterbury tomorrow. The Welsh international Gareth Terrett comes into the squad. Canterbury expect to be at full strength with David Hacker making the long trip from Millfield School.
Hounslow have brought their foreign quota up to strength with the arrival of the Pakistan international Zahid Sharif, who will be in their squad at Beeston. Hounslow will be without Kulraj Liddar, who injured his back against Guildford last week, and Andy Whalley who had a hernia operation during the week.