Brian Rice has backed his young Hamilton side to make a splash when they are thrown in at the deep end against Rangers on Sunday.
The Accies boss admits his squad are down to the “bare bones” ahead of hosting Steven Gerrard’s team at the Foys Stadium.
Sam Stubbs and Scott Martin are suspended for the clash while Brian Easton, Blair Alston, Marios Ogkmpoe, Ciaran McKenna, Aaron McGowan and Ryan Fulton are struggling with injuries.
Rice hopes he may see a couple of his casualty concerns declare themselves fit for action but confessed he may have to turn to youngsters such as Jamie Hamilton and Lewis Smith.
The Ibrox side have been beaten just twice in 27 contests this season but Rice reckons Sunday’s showdown with the title-chasers is as good a time as any to give the teenagers their shot.
He said: “We’re down to the bare bones. We’ve got a couple of suspensions and a few injuries.
“But that just opens the doors for others so there’s no point mumping and moaning. We’ll just get on with it.
“One or two of the injured lads have trained this week so we’ll see how they are.
“It’s not ideal at any stage. It’s a lot of injuries for us to carry.
“But the good thing is I have young lads who are champing at the bit for a chance. It’s bad news for some but good news for others.”
Rangers remain on a high from booking a place in next month’s Betfred Cup final and their 2-0 Europa League win over Portuguese giants Porto.
But Rice does not believe his academy recruits will be afraid of taking on Gerrard’s side.
He said: “It’s a concern throwing anybody in against Rangers and Celtic with the way they are playing at the moment. But these guys are part of the squad because they are good players. It’s very daunting for them going into these games but sometimes it’s the best thing for them.
“With the young ones there is an energy and enthusiasm about them. It’s a no-fear factor.
“This will be definitely the biggest test of our squad this season. Hamilton is famous for giving the younger lads a chance. Sometimes it’s against Celtic and Rangers, others it’s against the other teams in the league.
“We put young Jamie Hamilton and Lewis Smith on against Rangers when we were at Ibrox last month because I was interested to see how they would do. The game was done but I was delighted with what they gave us in that arena. They were terrific.”