sport

Rene defends Fulham changes

Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen has backed his decision to make 11 changes in the 1-1 FA Cup draw with Sheffield United.

Not one player who started in the 2-0 defeat at Arsenal made the cut and Meulensteen watched on as Hugo Rodallega's second-half equaliser forced a replay after Chris Porter's opener.

Fulham's League One hosts looked to be good value for their lead but the dismissal of captain Michael Doyle for an altercation with Chris David gave the Premier League outfit a way back into the game.

Youngsters Josh Passley and Muamer Tankovic were handed their first senior starts and Meulensteen believes that he needed to swap things around with one eye on his side's vital league meeting with Swansea.

"I think every person with a bit of common sense can understand (my team)," he said.

"If one person respects the FA Cup it's me and I'd love to stay in it but we play Sunday at 1pm for television and then go to Swansea on Tuesday then every man with a little common sense understands you have to maximise your possibilities and minimise your risk. That's what we are doing.

"The Swansea game is important to us so it works two ways: It gives a chance to the players who are going to face Swansea to have an extended preparation and a chance for the others to play here.

"That's what you've got a squad for. Every squad member is a valuable player and has to deliver when called upon."

Speaking of the replay, Meulensteen said: "It's like an extended Christmas period for us. I haven't even taken my tree down yet."

However, the Fulham boss admitted his frustration at not being able to find a way past the Blades who played the majority of the second-half with 10 men following Doyle's sending-off.

"I'm not happy with a replay, I don't think that is the right word because looking at the second half and the red card you should - as a Premier League team - be able to put the game to bed," he said.

"We lacked a bit of quality. In hindsight we were a bit lucky to still be in the cup because one of the breaks they had could have hurt us and they had a penalty shout that could have been given."

Meulensteen also bemoaned a late chance that substitute Darren Bent failed to convert from close-range after an onslaught of pressure from the visitors.

"Darren's was a poor miss, especially for him because that's what he's made his life on - goalscoring and those little chances," he said.

"That's where those players turn up and he's disappointed with himself as you can imagine."

Blades boss Nigel Clough saluted his side's work-rate and admitted to a sense of disappointment, despite the numerical disadvantage.

"It was an incredible effort by the players to go down to 10 men and work the way they did and also to be a threat for that second goal which we kept trying to get," Clough said.

"The first half we were a little bit disappointed that we didn't play more. We got the the goal but I thought we should have been better on the ball.

"I thought we were better on the ball in the second half, we defended on the ball when we had to and, apart from their brilliant strike from the edge of the box, we might have won it."