MICHAEL Appleton has stressed the benefits of ‘staying in the hat’ after insisting the ‘magic of the cup’ can help bring a club to life.

Rovers travel to Derby County for an FA Cup fourth round tie this afternoon and, while rescuing their flagging play-off hopes remain a priority, Appleton is adamant the tie is not seen as an inconvenience.

As well as looking for a confidence-boosting first win as Rovers manager, Appleton believes the potential of a ‘big’ fifth round clash could help lift the spirits in East Lancashire.

He said: “If we were lucky enough to be in the hat on Sunday and pulled out Manchester United at Ewood Park, you are not going to tell me the place is not going to be jam packed to the rafters.

“That type of game and atmosphere would give everyone a massive lift and a feel good factor. The excitement of being in the hat gives everyone a lift.

“We will be going there to win the game but if we come away with the draw and another go at it then so be it. I have told the players to make sure they are still in the hat.

“If the players got that chance of a big cup tie you say to the players ‘this is what it could be like every week if we get it right’.

“We need a bit of help of course we do, but there won’t be anyone shirking their opportunities to make it happen.”

Appleton is unlikely to make too many changes for the trip to Pride Park as he bids to build on the improved display in Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Brighton.

Chelsea loanee Todd Kane is ineligible for the tie, leaving Jason Lowe likely to fill in at right back, but Appleton isn’t about to ring the changes.

He said: “I have had a chance to see some of the fringe players in training and in behind closed doors games.

“We are in a position as a club where there has to be consistency on and off the pitch, we have to keep a level playing ground.

“The more I can keep the same group together, I think we will see a lot more improvement on the field.

“I have told the lads I just want another good performance, like they gave on Tuesday night.

“Another good performance is 10 times more important than the result because league positions are not at stake .

“But we believe if we can produce that type of performance we will be giving ourselves a good chance.”