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Fulham hang on to place in FA Cup

last updated Sunday 06th January 2008, 9:56 PM

Fulham 2 Bristol Rovers 2

Danny Murphy
Danny Murphy saves
Fulham's bacon

Danny Murphy's blistering drive 16 minutes from time earned Fulham a 2-2 draw and spared them from the list of Premier League names on the FA Cup scrapheap but battling Bristol Rovers will still be confident of getting through this third round tie in a home replay after twice leading at Craven Cottage.

New Fulham boss Roy Hodgson saw his full-strength team - apart from injured Brian McBride and Jimmy Bullard - fall behind right at the start when the League One team, last season's Wembley winners in the promotion play-offs, cashed in on a lucky break.

And, although David Healy equalised just before half-time, it looked like curtains again for a Fulham team that has not won in 10 matches when Rovers centre back Craig Hinton, who had survived a confident penalty appeal against him when Clint Dempsey tumbled, headed powerfully home to restore their lead on 65 minutes.

Fulham showed so little invention in trying to break down a dedicated defensive action, however, that it was a travesty of justice when Murphy, the former England and Liverpool midfielder who joined them on a free transfer from Tottenham in August, thumped home a smashing long-distance shot.

The goal still could not silence the massed ranks of the travelling Rovers army who gave their favourites magnificent backing, and they almost cheered a winner when Antti Niemi had to keep out a stinging effort from Sean Rigg in the 88th minute.

It was another reminder to former Inter Milan, Blackburn and Finland boss Hodgson that he has plenty of work to do to turn around a Fulham side heading for relegation on current form.

Match Stats Fulham Bristol R.
Goals 2 2
Possession 51% 49%
Goal attempts 21 7
On Target 10 5
Corners 10 4
Off-sides 2 5
Saves 4 8
Fouls 10 14
Yellows 1 2
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet
The Pirates fans were in good voice from way before the start and almost raised the roof when Danny Coles gave them the lead after two minutes and 48 seconds.

Fulham failed to clear a throw-in on the left and the ball bounced around in the area before Coles, on loan from Hull, pounced to hit a shot which took a wicked deflection to totally confound keeper Niemi as it ricocheted into the net.

Fulham were stunned - and little less than a minute later could have been two down when, after good work by Coles, David Pipe was preparing to pull the trigger for a clear shot until Paul Konchesky's tackle took the chance away.

Fulham thought they had levelled in the 11th minute when Dejan Stefanovic headed down a deep right-wing cross from the right for Clint Dempsey to nudge past keeper Steve Phillips but referee Keith Stroud ruled a foul against the big Serbian defender on Rovers' Steve Elliot.

Inevitably, Rovers came under the cosh as Fulham, desperate to avoid more humiliation after a run of nine games without a win, exerted strong pressure but they closed ranks emphatically whenever there was danger and relieved the stress by almost snatching a second goal when, from Chris Lines' free-kick, Andy Williams skewered a cross-ball beyond the far post and just failed to pick out the lurking Coles.

Nine and often 10 men behind the ball continued to frustrate Fulham and there appeared to be little chance of a breakthrough as Phillips earned his corn with bravery and defiance behind a solid rearguard action.

But suddenly Rovers seemed to lose their discipline and, following a spate of robust exchanges which referee Keith Stroud struggled to control, Healy was gifted the equaliser by an appalling clearance from Aaron Lescott, older brother of Everton's Joleon.

It flew straight to Moritz Volz who had moved up into midfield from right back when injured Hameur Bouazza had to leave the field in the 25th minute with what looked like a repeat of the dislocated shoulder he suffered earlier this season.

And the German's measured cross was perfect for Healy, the man who is so prolific as a marksman for Northern Ireland, to head deftly home for only his fifth Fulham goal.

Fulham started the second half brightly and Murphy, probably their best player, was just wide with a worthy effort but Rovers striker Williams stung Niemi's palms before Hinton rose unopposed in a crowded penalty area to head the League One team back in front again on 64 minutes.

Naturally, they reverted to their defensive action again and had to see out the last few minutes with some desperation after Murphy's glorious strike but substitute Rigg was the nearest to a decider, demanding another fine stop by Niemi.

Bristol Rovers manager Paul Trollope saluted his team and their 'immense' fans after forcing a third round FA Cup replay against his former club Fulham with a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage.

Fulham confirmed that League One Rovers brought over 7,000 supporters to the Thames-side stadium, completely filling one end of the ground.

And, although Trollope - who spent five years at Fulham as a midfielder and won nine caps for Wales - gave his players due credit for a sterling performance he admitted: 'Those supporters were immense - as usual.

'They give us backing like that every week even though they are not crammed into one area like that at The Memorial Stadium and they will be well up for the replay.

'We've done what people call the hard bit and brought Fulham back for the replay but I don't pretend they are still not favourites.

'But we are actually a little bit disappointed to have come out with only a draw after leading twice and I think we should be very hopeful of landing the cup shock on our own ground under lights. It should be a great night.'

Rovers will have suspended skipper Stuart Campbell and several other key men back for the replay a week on Tuesday and Trollope admitted: 'I've got some selection problems because we were without quite a few players today but the ones who stood in did a magnificent job.

'It's still a great result for us, but the players are pleased rather than jubilant because they know that on the day we could easily have won it.

'We were under a lot of pressure at times and our keeper made some good saves but most of the time our players dropped into the right holes and made the right decisions.

'These are huge games for lower division clubs and some of the bigger sides give you a chance by resting players in the FA Cup, but that wasn't quite the case today.

'Fulham had some big-name players out there and although they may be struggling at the moment they've got a new manager and are all keen to impress.'

The former Inter Milan, Blackburn and Finland boss Roy Hodgson said: 'Sometimes you have to look a little bit beyond results and see exactly what happened.

'All I've said to the players is that they have no reason to feel ashamed of that performance in any way.

'They have done well to come back twice from being a goal behind - especially after the cold shower of being one down after only two minutes.

'I know some people will look at the result and say Fulham have been held to a draw by a League One team but what I saw was players showing a strong attitude and commitment, a desire to try to play their way back.

'A foundation, to some extent, was laid that I can work on. Nobody is under any illusions about an awful lot of work to be done and it is not going to be put right day-to-day. It will take a period of time.

'We've got a while now to work on the players and put right what we see as the wrongs. One obvious one is that the two games in which I've been here we have conceded four goals from set-plays.

'Today we couldn't clear a throw-in that bounced around the area and a straightforward free-kick in the air. We are not a big team but we've got to do something about that.

'But I never saw a scenario where we would lose the game and the way we played for 20 minutes before the first equaliser I thought we would continue and come out winners in the second half.

'Obviously the players are lacking confidence and have been taking a lot of stick for their performances but they kept trying to do the right things and that's important.

'The chairman has said he's not averse to us bringing in a few new faces in the transfer window but we are still fitting profiles to faces and I'm aware you can take too much of a risk on some players if you are not careful.'

But £7million Senegal striker Diomansy Kamara who missed the game with a back injury goes off to the African Nations Cup tomorrow (Monday) and Hameur Bouazza must see a specialist after dislocating his right shoulder for a third time this season.

Fulham: Niemi, Volz (Ki-Hyeon 72), Bocanegra, Stefanovic, Konchesky, Davies, Smertin (Davis 73), Murphy, Bouazza (Baird 25), Healy, Dempsey.
Subs Not Used: Ricardo Batista, Leijer.

Booked: Healy (26, ub).


Healy 40 (Headed goal into the bottom-right of goal from the left side of penalty area . Assist (cross) by Moritz Volz rom right channel.),

Murphy 73 (right-footed blaster into top-right of the goal from the left channel.  Assist (pass) by David Healy from left channel.).

Bristol Rovers: Phillips, Lescott, Hinton, Elliott, Jacobson, Pipe, Coles, Lines, Igoe (Carruthers 76), Williams (Rigg 76), Lambert (Walker 90).
Subs Not Used: Mike Green, Reece.

Booked: Phillips, Jacobson.

Goals: Coles 3, Hinton 65.

Att: 13,634

Ref: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).

Source soccernet
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