Tue, Jan 09, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Training pays off for Blackburn

GETTING A FEEL OF THE BALL Plenty of practice with the new ball being used in the FA Cup this year helped Mark Hughes' side make short work of Everton at Goodison Park

AFP , LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND

Everton manager David Moyes reacts as his side lose 4-1 against Blackburn Rovers during their FA Cup soccer match at Goodison Park Stadium, Liverpool, England, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

Blackburn boss Mark Hughes admitted Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard paid the price for the decision to introduce a new ball for this season's FA Cup after his mistakes helped Rovers seal a 4-1 third round win.

USA international Howard, on a season-long loan from Manchester United, gifted Blackburn a 2-0 lead on Sunday by failing to keep out strikes from Matt Derbyshire and Morten Gamst Pedersen.

But Hughes insisted that preparation on the Blackburn training ground gave him the game plan to spark Everton's downfall as his players worked with the new ball introduced by the English Football Association for this year's competition.

Hughes said: "We have had the new FA Cup ball all week in training and we felt it was a bit unpredictable with its flight, so we had a game plan to try as many long shots as we could."

"That's what happened. We tried it early on and it worked for us," he said. "It was a great performance and a great result, though. Before the game, people maybe felt the FA Cup was a competition that we are taking lightly, but that is not the case and I picked a team I felt could win the game for us and that's what they did."

"This was an opportunity to rest certain players like Robbie Savage, Benni McCarthy and Brett Emerton, but the players who came in took the opportunity to prove themselves," Hughes said.

Paul Gallagher's 39th minute goal made the tie safe for Blackburn before Andy Johnson pulled one back with a second-half penalty.

An injury-time strike by South African McCarthy, on as a substitute, rubbed salt in Everton's wounds, but boss David Moyes admitted that his team only had themselves to blame for the defeat.

He said: "We engineered our own downfall. Everything that they hit seemed to hit the target, but whatever we hit went over or wide of the target. I lost count of the number of chances that we had."

Moyes insisted that the scoreline did not reflect Everton's performance, however.

He added: "On our first-half performance, you would have said that we had a chance of coming back in the second-half, and although our performance deserved more than one goal, we didn't get it."

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