Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson had no regrets about his decision to protect the likes of Eberechi Eze for Saturday’s Premier League trip to Arsenal after substituting his star player in their FA Cup exit at Everton.
Trailing 1-0 to Andre Gomes’ brilliant first-half free-kick, Hodgson took off Eze – their most dangerous player – Tyrick Mitchell and Nathaniel Clyne after 64 minutes, with Jefferson Lerma and Odsonne Edouard following seven minutes later.
Eze’s withdrawal brought chants of, “You don’t know what you’re doing” from visiting fans but Hodgson said the way they finished they game, forcing Everton back-up goalkeeper Joao Virginia into a couple of good late saves, proved there was nothing wrong with his decision.
Asked whether he understood supporters’ frustrations he said: “Absolutely. We had to think very carefully about it.
“I appreciate for the fans it is a long way to come. I would’ve been disappointed to see Eze come off as he is one of our best players but I would have been equally disappointed if he had played another 35 minutes, got injured and put himself out for Arsenal.
“In the last 30 minutes of the game we had three or four goal chances. I thought this was a day when we deserved better than a defeat.
“The major point for us is that we get home at 2am and at 12.30 we play Arsenal on Saturday so that was our problem.
“I was able to at least spare three of the very important players for the weekend after 60 minutes and another couple after 70 minutes.
“We should be in a slightly better position to confront Arsenal because that will be a vitally-important game.”
On a fifth failure to get beyond the third round in eight years, Hodgson added: “It’s our own fault.
“If we had wanted to progress in the cup serenely we would have won the game at home. We didn’t, we drew 0-0 which forced us into a replay.”
Gomes’ goal was his first at Goodison Park in almost five years but it required an impressive performance from Virginia for Everton to progress to a home tie against fellow Premier League strugglers Luton.
Boss Sean Dyche revealed Abdoulaye Doucoure, just back after missing five matches with a hamstring problem, will be sidelined again after injuring the hamstring in his other leg against Aston Villa on Sunday.
Match-winner Gomes played in Doucoure’s position against Palace, but Dyche admits it is not his natural position.
“We know Gomes has had a really up and down time with injuries,” he said.
“I said to him when he came back (in pre-season) I can see him being part of what we do as he was unsure at that time about whether he was going to be here or not.
“We know he can play and it is finding the right spot for him. I don’t think he is true number 10 but we know he can deal with the ball in there and he found his way into the game.”
On Virginia, who also did well in the original tie, Dyche added: “I think he has moved on a long way this season.
“He made clear decisions, made a good save in the first half (from Mitchell) and then the one at the end (from Jeffrey Schlupp) he gets across quick and makes a good save.”