Allardyce puts priority on winning relegation battle

Blackburn manager does not regret fielding weakened side in Cup defeat at Coventry
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Sam Allardyce, the Blackburn Rovers manager, has defended his decision to field a drastically altered side in the FA Cup ahead of a crucial batch of games in the battle for Premier League survival.

Allardyce made 11 changes from the side narrowly beaten by Manchester United at the weekend for Tuesday's fifth-round replay at Coventry. He paid the penalty as a Leon Best goal condemned them to a 1-0 defeat and earned the home side a quarter-final meeting with Chelsea.

But Allardyce admits he had to look at the bigger picture and a run of four league games in 13 days against Hull, Everton, Fulham and Arsenal. He said: "If we had beaten Coventry, we would have had a run of Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday games over the next fortnight with the Chelsea Cup game in the middle.

"One group of 11 players cannot start and finish all those games in such a short time. Hence you've got to play your squad players when the opportunity comes around.

"Playing them in the Cup and falling foul of the result is much easier to take than playing them in the Premier League and losing three points.

"Do I regret the changes? I have to think ahead. I have to be the man who looks at each individual game but then what is beyond that and then look at the position you are in in the Premier League.

"With the games that are now coming up for us, three points in the Premier League is much more important than a win against Coventry," Allardyce added. "The Hull game becomes one of our crucial games in the run-in. You have to think ahead."

"Let's hope the good side out of this defeat is, after we get the rest period after playing next Wednesday night against Everton, we are able to show our physical attributes when we play Fulham away a week later.

"They have to play an FA Cup tie during that period and we have to try and take advantage of that. We do need to get something from the Hull, Everton and Fulham games – and then go onto Arsenal from there."

Allardyce was disappointed with his side's second-half performance against Coventry and hopes it gives some of his fringe players an opportunity at the Ricoh Stadium to give the manager something to think about. He said: "These players need to overcome the disappointment and take a reality check in terms of what they need to do to get this club out of the position they are in.

"It is not about the football or the talent first. It is about the desire and battling qualities first and that allows them to then produce the talent. The talent just can't win a game on its own.

"What a lot of them have done for me is show what they can or cannot do which means my selection process grows with experience every time a game goes by in terms of who I can trust the most.

"I need to trust the players from now on in terms of the performances they are going to give me. Unfortunately some of the second-half performances at Coventry were well below par which has left me disappointed."