Newcastle playing for their futures in Blackburn FA Cup tie, warns Howe

<span>Eddie Howe said ‘I can’t disagree’ when asked if senior <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Newcastle;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Newcastle</a> players’ futures are on the line in the FA Cup tie against Blackburn.</span><span>Photograph: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United/Getty</span>

Eddie Howe says his Newcastle side are playing for their futures as they prepare for Tuesday night’s potentially season-defining FA Cup fifth-round tie at Blackburn Rovers. Howe has tended to defend his injury-hit squad this season but declined to act as a human shield after last Saturday’s 4-1 Premier League defeat at Arsenal.

“Regardless of how you set up tactically it’s about individuals doing their jobs and making sure they don’t make individual errors,” he said. “But we’ve been guilty of that a lot in the last few weeks.

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“We need to do better in lots of areas. We just did not perform at Arsenal. There are no excuses for that and we have to take full responsibility.”

Asked if senior players were playing for their futures, Howe said: “I can’t disagree with that sentiment. Every aspect of our game was off at Arsenal.”

Championship side Blackburn will doubtless be encouraged by the defensive collapse that has all but wrecked Newcastle’s hopes of qualifying for Europe via the league. In the top tier, only Sheffield United, Burnley, Luton, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest have conceded more. In the past eight League games, they have leaked 23 goals.

“We don’t want to be easy to play against and I take responsibility for that,” said Howe, acknowledging his squad have lost the streetwise edge that made them such awkward opponents last year. “We have to find solutions to still be effective defensively and, at the moment, the balance between attack and defence isn’t right. Our game management hasn’t been as good as last season. It’s something we need to look at.”

With approximately 7,000 fans due to travel to Ewood Park Newcastle’s manager has urged his team to seize a “huge opportunity” to keep the prospect of a Wembley final alive. “This can still be a special season for us,” said Howe, who hopes Martin Dubravka will recover from illness in time to replace Loris Karius in goal. “Nothing is decided yet.”