Fight to stay up is priority over cup runs, says McLeish

Birmingham 3 Sheffield Wednesday 0
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The Independent Football

Carling Cup finalists Birmingham may be only one more win from booking themselves another trip to Wembley but manager Alex McLeish will not gamble with the club's Premier League future for the sake of fleeting FA Cup glory.

Despite making eight changes, McLeish watched City stroll into the quarter-finals at the expense of hapless Sheffield Wednesday, yet said it was "unrealistic" to expect the club to compete on three fronts.

"Being successful in the Carling Cup is as big a task as you could ask for," he said. "We would really struggle to do the FA Cup as well and I would worry about the effect it would have on us in the league."

Birmingham can spend this week preparing to face Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday, but will have a relegation battle looming when they face fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion on 5 March.

With both in mind McLeish allowed many of his likely Wembley starters the day off against Wednesday. The chance for others to stake their claims for places produced mixed results. Alexander Hleb may miss out after a mistimed tackle left him with a knee injury. But Obafemi Martins is likely to start after opening his scoring account for City.

McLeish said the nucleus of his Wembley team was already picked, but was under no illusions about Birmingham's chances against Arsenal. "We are playing a team that just beat Barcelona," he said. "You see things in every game although we didn't get many ideas from that one, unless we can get Messi and Xavi on loan."

Wednesday manager Gary Megson blamed "Keystone Kops defending" for allowing Jean Beausejour to score his first Birmingham goal after six minutes and Martins to make it 2-0 after 17, defender David Murphy adding the third in the second half.

Scorers: B'ham Beausejour 6, Martins 17, Murphy 53. Subs: B'ham Bentley 6 (Hleb, 26), Phillips 6 (Jerome h/t), Mutch 6 (Johnson, 62). S Wed Hinds 6 (Reynolds,28), Beevers 6 (Morrison, h/t), Palmer 7 (O'Connor, h/t).Booked: B'ham Johnson. S Wed Spurr, Beevers, Reda Johnson, O'Connor. Man of the match Bowyer. Match rating 6/10.

Referee A Taylor (Cheshire) Att 14,607.