West Bromwich Albion strike duo Kevin Phillips and Roman Bednar were substituted against Scunthorpe to protect them for tomorrow's trip to Ipswich Town.
Bednar was replaced at half-time by Ishmael Miller and Phillips looked extremely disappointed to make way for Craig Beattie in the 62nd minute, having just missed a penalty and his hat-trick.
Manager Tony Mowbray said he took the decision to protect his in-form front line ahead of the New Years Day clash at Portman Road where his former club, Ipswich, are unbeaten this season.
"It wasn't a difficult decision to take Kevin off because the next game is always in my mind," Mowbray said. "If I feel the game is finished, then you move onto the next game and what your team's going to be. Kevin came off because his job was finished. He was unhappy, not because he was brought off, but because he missed a penalty.
"My only interest was my next game. It's no good leaving Kevin on, waiting for him to score his third and find he gets crocked and misses the next six weeks - that would be bad management."
Mowbray said the demands of starting eight games in a month had taken their toll on Czech Republic star Bednar, who has been striving to gain his fitness for most of the season.
"Roman almost didn't start," Mowbray explained. "He hadn't played football for a long time. He came here unfit, played seven games on the bounce and has done well.
"I've looked at his stats and noticed that he's starting to drop off a bit on ground covered, his work rate and that's a sign that he's almost running on empty.
"He needs a break and a breather. Ishmael has been chomping at the bit and was unfortunate not to score himself. When you've got the choice of Miller and Bednar, you have to utilise the opportunity. Forty-five minutes sat next to me on the bench will do Roman some good."
Mowbray said he had some sympathy for opposite number Nigel Adkins over the officials' decisions to wave play on for the first goal when Phillips looked offside, a decision which incensed Adkins so much that he was sent to the stands, as well as the sending-off of Marcus Williams.
However, Mowbray pointed out that Albion had received their fair share of debatable decisions this season.
"It doesn't matter what I think - it's what the officials think," he said. "I'm sure Nigel will feel aggrieved about some of the decisions. Officials make honest decisions and we all have to abide them.
"It was a contentious decision which went for us and against them - we've had enough gone the other way, so we'll take that."
Mowbray emphasised the need for Albion to remain patient in games as sides set out their stall to frustrate the Championship leaders.
Although they have scored 13 goals in their last three home games, the supporters have had to wait until the second half for Albion to assert their dominance.
"There are no easy games, especially in this division," Mowbray said. "You need to earn the right to win football games. The games against Charlton, Bristol City and now Scunthorpe have all been very tight early on. It's a tactical battle, as well as a physical confrontation between the players. The longer it goes on, the more it becomes open.
"The shape they played had the potential to cause us problems, with the guy playing behind the striker. It prevented Greening from getting on the ball and running the game. Tactically, it worked for them, but that went out of the window for them with the sending-off and that allowed us to get a grasp on the match." ..SUPL: