Sheffield Wednesday: Cup exit rules out fixture backlog

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THERE are pros and cons to consider after the FA Cup defeat at MK Dons.

It shut down a possible revenue source and a slim chance of some cup glamour in the future.

It also meant an unhappy night for the fans who made a round trip of more than 200 miles for the replay.

You could argue that it disturbed momentum after an exhilarating victory at Hull.

On the other hand, there is no longer the risk of the season being cluttered by a fixture backlog that could have hindered the fight for Championship survival, even if it was only slightly.

In addition, certain important players were rested when, if they had played, there could have been injury concerns for tomorrow’s big game against Wolves.

It also meant other players getting a much-needed game. Wednesday were playing a League One side, so it’s not as if a side showing seven changes were going like lambs to the slaughter.

It has become common practice for managers, especially Premier League managers, to field what are perceived to be weakened sides when up against lower-league opposition in the cups.

if Jones had stuck as much as possible to the 11 who started at Hull and someone with an injury history, let’s say Anthony Gardner, Reda Johnson, Giles Coke or Rhys McCabe, had suffering a new outbreak of an old problem, then the manager would no doubt have been criticised for playing him in the cup.

Managers must face something of a balancing act when they try to pick a side that gives important players a break but also can be considered to be strong enough to have a very good chance of beating lower-level opposition.

It did not work for Dave Jones at MK Dons, and he will not be the only manager to have suffered the same fate this season. Steve Bruce very nearly ended up in the same boat: he made nine changes for a home FA Cup tie against Leyton Orient, and Hull scraped a replay thanks only to an equaliser in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

For the replay, Bruce made seven changes to his league team: Hull were taken to extra time and avoided penalties only via a winner three minutes from the end.

Bruce said after the first tie that his team did not perform, and his verdict after the replay was that they huffed and puffed their way through.

Bruce has also said that big clubs have diluted the importance of the FA Cup because football has become more of a squad game. I agree with him when he said it has been sad to see its significance fall during the last 20 years.

But we will be seeing the big clubs rolling out the big guns in the later stages of the competition.

Wednesday’s hold on it seemed to be slipping straight after the fourth-round draw, for not only did they have to overcome MK Dons away, they then would face an away game against QPR or West Brom.

Let’s face it, the Owls would probably have gone out then, anyway, no matter what happened last Tuesday.

Wednesday’s league game on fourth-round day, January 26, goes ahead, at Charlton - who lost 1-0 at home to Huddersfield in the third round.