Rovers can trouble fragile Fulham

last updated Thursday 03rd January 2008, 10:37 AM
Ex Fulham scapegoat Paul Trollope will spearhead a Gas invasion on Sunday as over 7000 travelling Bristol Rovers fans turn Craven Cottage Blue & White.

Expect the lusty strains of “Goodnight Irene” to be swirling round the Thames as Rovers fans may actually outnumber those of Fulham, making for a cracking cup tie atmosphere.

Rovers have picked up in recent weeks with 2 fine wins over Christmas against Carlisle and Southend to consolidate their position in the 3rd Division. One look at Fulham’s recent record against lower division teams will further boost their confidence as they look to emulate the likes of Leyton Orient and Wycombe in claiming a Premiership scalp.

After a remarkable season last season that saw appearances at both the Millennium Stadium and a play off win at Wembley in front of 40,000 travelling fans, Rovers will not be intimidated by the big occasion on Sunday.

They have found the going more difficult this time around as free scoring striker Richard Walker who briefly tasted the Premiership with Aston Villa has struggled to replicate the exploits that saw him notch 23 goals last term.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s Fulham couldn’t buy a win against the Blue half of Bristol. A dreadful 0-4 reverse in the play offs in 1989 was followed up by regular beatings at the hands of Devon White et al making Rovers one of many bogey sides during those dark days.

Rovers boss Paul Trollope made 78 League appearances for Fulham in an up and down career at the Cottage and once scored the winner in a 3-2 away win at the Memorial Stadium on a filthy Friday night in Bristol , as Fulham cruised to the 3rd Division title under Kevin Keegan.

Trollope has openly praised the techniques employed by Jean Tigana at Fulham and has taken many of his methods to the West Country as Rovers passed their way to success last season.

An interesting comparison to be made then between the old Fulham philosophy and the new, as Roy Hodgson tries to get a win on the board early in his tenure.

With injuries ravaging the Fulham squad and confidence at an all time low after the Lawrie Sanchez debacle, there is not much opportunity for Roy Hodgson to shake up the team he has inherited.

Winning is a good habit for any Football club to get into and I’m sure that Hodgson will put out a strong side for what will be a tough test.

Rovers are not blessed with great pace up front so the Fulham back four should be able to cope fairly comfortably in open play, but will need to be disciplined when defending set pieces.

Whether Fulham have enough at the top end of the pitch to make it a comfortable afternoon is another matter - an anaemic attack has notched just 4 goals in the last 7 games.

Dio Kamara who has looked totally out of his depth in the top flight and is now in danger of surpassing Steve Marlet as the worst pound for pound signing in Fulham history owes the club a big performance before he jets off to Ghana for the African Nations. If he is selected I expect him to trouble the Rovers defence and get himself on the scoresheet to improve his woeful statistics (just 3 goals in 20 games).

The likes of Keller, Volz, Ashton, Smertin, Healy and Seol Ki Hyeon should also get the chance to impress the new boss and most Fulham fans will expect progress to the 4th Round.

With a huge travelling contingent and some good recent form behind them I don’t expect Rovers to give Fulham an easy ride, but can see the Whites winning by the odd goal in 3.

Prediction: Fulham 2 -1 Bristol Rovers
Source Fulhamweb.com
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