Ben Barclay will make his Carlisle United comeback tonight as the Blues return to EFL Trophy action.

The defender, back from a calf injury, is set to take on Nottingham Forest’s Under-21s at Brunton Park.

United’s second group game in the competition (kick-off 7pm) will see boss Paul Simpson further reshuffle his squad.

It will give several squad members the chance of some much-needed action.

In Barclay’s case it will be a first outing for nearly two months.

The summer signing, who injured his calf in training, has only made two appearances so far this campaign.

The game against young Premier League visitors will see last season’s play-off semi-final hero begin his bid to push his way into Simpson’s first-team.

The 26-year-old could be joined in the side by the likes of Jayden Harris, Jack Robinson, Corey Whelan, Jack Ellis, Terry Ablade, Ryan Edmondson, Dan Butterworth and Jokull Andresson.

United’s manager said he welcomes the chance to give others in his squad an opportunity and give some of his recent front-line performers a breather.

News and Star: Terry Ablade is among the players hoping for an opportunity tonightTerry Ablade is among the players hoping for an opportunity tonight (Image: Richard Parkes)

“It’s a chance to freshen up what we’ve got here,” said Simpson.

“[On Saturday at Bolton] we had Owen Moxon with a dead leg in his hamstring which was cramping, Sam [Lavelle] was cramping, Alfie [McCalmont] was cramping, Jack Armer was flexing something…

“Some of these lads will have to go again on Tuesday and they’ll be fine.

“But it will be a case of freshening it up. I have to tick all the boxes for who we can play so as not to get in trouble [regarding competition rules].

“But it’s a really good opportunity to get a proper game of football for everyone in the squad.”

Fin Back will not feature against his parent club. Simpson said: “I haven’t been told that he can play so I’m presuming that as a loan player from Forest he can’t play.

“For the others, it’s a great opportunity, a really good game.

“I hope the lads who haven’t been playing are thinking, ‘I hope the manager picks me for that one because I want to show him’.”

Victory tonight would keep United’s hopes of qualification from northern group C alive, following their opening 1-0 defeat to Accrington Stanley last month.

But defeat would put them at serious risk of elimination at the group stage.

The Trophy remains controversial with many fans over its involvement of Premier League Under-21 teams since 2016.

A number of supporters are continuing to boycott the competition in protest.

Prize money has reduced this season with the Trophy currently unsponsored, following the end of the deal with previous backers Papa John’s.

A group stage win is now worth £8,000 rather than the previous £10,000. A draw can earn the Blues £4,000, down from £5,000.

Forest’s Under-21s lost their opening group game 2-1 at Harrogate Town.