Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson insisted he had no regrets about overhauling his team despite missing out on a place in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
Hodgson made eight changes as Premier League Palace travelled to Sky Bet Championship Middlesbrough in the fourth round on Wednesday evening and left on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline.
Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, defenders James Tomkins and Patrick van Aanholt and star man Wilfried Zaha were among those left behind with one eye on Sunday’s league trip to Chelsea, but the manager was unrepentant.
Asked if he had any regrets over shuffling his pack, Hodgson replied: “No. Football today is a competition where you have a squad of players and if you never give any of those players a chance to play…
“We have had a fairly stable 11 or 12 this season and there were a lot of players there tonight who really did need a game, and they didn’t let me down in any shape or form.
“Furthermore, of course, of the players we left at home – you mention eight, but three or those were injured. There were only four or five at home that possibly could have come, one of those being the goalkeeper, so we pretty much used the players that we had at our disposal.”
The Eagles were ultimately undone by Lewis Wing’s sumptuous long-range strike in first-half stoppage time as they were made to pay for a slow start at the Riverside Stadium.
Hodgson said: “In the second half, we had a lot of possession, a lot of play in the opponents’ half and final third of the field, and I thought we looked a lot more dangerous in that period of time.
“But of course, we are chasing a 1-0 deficit and we are playing against a team that obviously does defend in numbers and defends their own penalty area well, so it wasn’t easy to get the clear-cut chances that maybe would have given us the equaliser.”
Opposite number Tony Pulis – who also made eight changes – was delighted with his side’s display, which earned them a last-eight showdown with League One side Burton.
He was particularly pleased with Wing’s contribution, but warned that the 23-year-old midfielder, who was playing Northern League football for Shildon less than two years ago, still has a lot to learn.
Pulis said: “He’s a good player. He’s got lots of things to improve on, lots of things to learn. He’s a bit naive in his game at the moment, but he’s an absolute wonderful, wonderful lad and he loves every minute of playing football.
“He’s just signed a new contract, which we’re delighted about, and I think one day… he’s got to keep his feet on the ground, keep working hard, keep doing what he does and one day, he’ll be a regular in the team.”