Pirates earn a draw
Cottagers come from behind to avoid embarrassment
By Hayley Paterson. Last Updated: January 6, 2008 4:37pm
Coles: Celebrates the opener
Bristol Rovers earned themselves a replay at The Memorial Stadium after twice going ahead against Premiership strugglers Fulham.
Danny Coles put the Pirates infront in the 3rd minute with a well-taken effort which curled past Antti Niemi's outstretched arm. But David Healy nodded home for the equaliser just before the interval.
Fulham looked the more likely to take the lead, however Paul Trollope's resurgent men had other ideas when Craig Hinton's head connected well with a Chris Lines freekick for 2-1.
However the Cottagers dug deep to level the scores thanks to a typical Danny Murphy pile-driver in the 73rd minute.
The Pirates fans were in good voice from way before the start and almost raised the roof when 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 Antti 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.
Moritz Volz'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 Andy 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 Sean Rigg was the nearest to a decider, demanding another fine stop by Niemi.
|Fulham||Team Statistics||Bristol Rovers|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|8||Shots on Target||5|
|9||Shots off Target||2|