A poor start and a much-changed side cost Everton the chance of progression in the Capital One Cup at Leeds, according to manager David Moyes.
The Premier League's third-placed side arrived in West Yorkshire as one of the favourites to lift the trophy, but left a rain-sodden Elland Road with a 2-1 third-round defeat after having their noses bloodied by the Championship battlers.
On whether or not his decision to rest some players was key, Moyes said: "These boys are in the squad and have to be able to show they can come in and play. If you don't use them, what's the point in having them? The players want to play and be involved."
Moyes made six alterations to the team that won convincingly at Swansea on Saturday, giving breathers to the likes of Leighton Baines, Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka, but his starting line-up still featured the likes of Sylvain Distin, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Naismith.
But the Toffees, be it before or after Nikica Jelavic, Phil Neville and Steven Pienaar were thrown on as part of an unsuccessful rescue mission, were never able to settle on the ball as Aidy White gave Leeds a fourth-minute lead and the excellent Rodolph Austin doubled it with 20 minutes left.
Distin would reduce the deficit with a header but Everton had left themselves with too big a mountain to climb, something Moyes was quick to acknowledge.
"We were not very good in the first half, but we got better in the second, but not as good as we've been playing," he added. "We started terribly, gave them the initiative and lost the game in the opening 20 minutes due to the way we started. We gave away a really poor first goal and left ourselves trying to get back into the game."
While Moyes headed back to Merseyside to plan for a pick-me-up meeting with Southampton, opposite number Neil Warnock showered in what he called his "best-ever cup win".
Such praise was rich from a man who took an unfancied Sheffield United side to the semi-finals of both domestic competitions a decade ago, but he claims that owing to the injury crisis that is currently sweeping his already-thin squad, this victory was sweeter.
"I think that's as good a performance as I've ever had in the cup, because of the circumstances," he said. "They had a strong team, they're nearly top of the Premier League and they wanted to win. But we were better on the night. We deserved the win. They did have a few chances and we did too."
- David Moyes