BOWERS & Pitsea will be represented by the club’s under-23 side as the Essex Thameside Trophy returns tonight.

The Essex Thameside Trophy, which has returned to the non-league calendar for the first time in 11 years, is not among Rob Small’s priorities as Bowers adapt to a first ever season in the Isthmian Premier League.

And under-23s boss John Guyton is pleased that Small is giving the youngsters the opportunity to impress in the second round tie at Grays Athletic tonight.

Guyton said: “It’s a massive opportunity for us.

“I am pleased that Rob has given our lads the chance to represent the club in the game.

“Games like this are a fantastic chance for us to develop the youngsters coming through the ranks and the players have a great opportunity to showcase what they can do.

“The players and I are really looking forward to it.”

Grays are hoping to emulate Bowers by winning promotion from the Isthmian North this season.

And Guyton is unsure as to how strong Jim Cooper’s hosts will be at Parkside.

Guyton added: “I know they have some really important Isthmian North games coming up and, like us, they are still in the FA Cup, so we’re not sure what sort of team they will be putting out.

“They put their reserves out on the pitch in the Isthmian League Cup game with Barking last week.

“We have to be prepared no matter what team they put out.

“But, even if they play their first team, we have some young players who will be fired up and hungry.

“Hopefully they will do themselves justice.”

The likes of Luke Hirst, who shone for the under-23s last term, have already made their first team debut for Bowers.

And Guyton is pleased that Small is continuing to show that he has faith in those coming through the system.

“We have players who have been involved in the under-23s and gone onto make first team appearances recently,” admitted Guyton.

“That, along with us representing the club in the Essex Thameside Trophy, shows the sort of faith Rob has in the young players coming through at Bowers.

“He has a great interest in the under-23s and it’s fantastic.

“Rob has shown that he will give an opportunity to the players if they are good enough and hopefully they will rise to the occasion.

“I can’t thank Rob enough for the amount of backing he has shown us.”