It was almost Goodnight Vienna for Fulham, until Danny Murphy fired home the equaliser that meant the two sides will have to do it again at the Memorial Stadium later this month. Bristol may be a city where the silverware never shines but never mistake it for one that doesn’t care about its football. City, a division higher, had failed to down Middlesbrough on Saturday and League One Rovers were intent on claiming bragging rights.
Danny Coles, an ex-City boy, opened the scoring via a hefty deflection off Dejan Stefanovic in the game’s first attack and with plenty of other top flight sides having already been eliminated, Fulham must have feared the worst, especially when winger Hameur Bouazza cried off with a shoulder problem.
It was not until the 40th minute that the visitors betrayed their lower league status. Aaron Lescott, brother of England’s Joleon, mis-kicked skywards and when Moritz Volz retrieved David Healy headed home.
Rovers were undaunted and regained the lead when Craig Hinton rose to head home a free-kick from Chris Lines, in the team only because set-piece specialist Stuart Campbell was suspended.
Murphy made sure there was no be no shock with a 25-yarder that was just too powerful for Rovers goalkeeper Steve Phillips but the visitors resisted subsequent efforts to add a winner.
Rovers boss Paul Trollope, himself an ex-Fulham player, paid tribute his players. He said: ‘‘I’m very proud. We have come up against an established Premier League team and managed to get a draw and take them back for a replay, which is great for us.’’
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson tried his best to put on a brave face. ‘‘I told the players they had no reason to be ashamed,’’ he said. ‘‘We did well to come back twice and a foundation was laid that I can build on. That level of work-rate, attitude and desire to want the ball was what we want.’’
Niemi 6, Volz 6 (Seol 72, 6), Bocanegra 6, Stefanovic 6, Konchesky 6, Davies 5, Murphy 6, Smertin 5 (Davis 72, 5), Bouazza 5 (Baird 24, 6), Dempsey 6, Healy 6. Subs Not Used: Batista, Leijer.
Phillips 7, Lescott 7, Hinton 8, Elliott 8, Jacobson 7, Pipe 7, Coles 8, Lines 7, Igoe 7 (Carruthers 76), Lambert 7 (Walker 90, 5), Williams 7 (Rigg 76, 6).
Subs Not Used: Green, Reece.
Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 6: No major decisions to put the official in the spotlight and that’s the way we like it, especially on FA Cup third round day.
**** Well done to Rovers for rising to the occasion; their second bite at the cherry was well deserved.