Cool Rovers put dire Saints in deep freeze

THE champagne was not the only thing Bristol Rovers kept on ice after their FA Cup fifth round triumph over Southampton on Saturday.

While the League One club’s fans in the 11,920 crowd — a record for a football match at the Memorial Stadium — celebrated the Pirates’ place in the last eight with the same gusto as if they had won the cup itself, their heroic players were far more subdued. And it was not only because of the extraordinary effort they generated in defeating their visitors from the Championship, or the fact that as cup shocks go, this was not entirely unexpected as Southampton had failed to win their previous four matches.

No, the reason for the lack of excitement among the home players as they trudged back down the tunnel was the realisation of what faced them next. Rather than line up for the stock giantkillers’ photograph of spraying bubbly over everyone in the dressing room, Rovers’ players restored the great cup final tradition of the communal bath: the only difference being this one was full of ice and freezing cold air.

“The gaffer has this ritual of keeping us in a bloody ice bath after games,” Stuart Campbell, the captain, revealed. “In fact, it’s worse than an ice bath. It’s this big old communal thing that he got from the rugby club that regulates the temperature and keeps cold air blowing in.

“It’s murder. It’s so cold, some of the lads go in there with shorts and socks on. It’s not a pretty sight, but it does aid recovery after matches.”

Southampton had better install one quickly before their season becomes unrecoverable. The woeful Championship side pointed fingers at the bumpy pitch but, in truth, they were out-thought and out-fought by their League One hosts.

Rovers would have been out of sight by half-time had Campbell’s fifth-minute volley not dipped the wrong side of the post and Craig Disley and Andy Williams both not wasted gilt-edged opportunities afforded them by sloppy Saints defending, but the breakthrough arrived six minutes from time when Rickie Lambert’s free kick found its way into the net courtesy of a wicked deflection off Jermaine Wright’s right boot.

Stewards had to step in to prevent a group of furious Southampton fans from confronting their players as they boarded the bus afterwards.

Caretaker manager John Gorman said: “We thought getting through would be good for the club and the fans. I hold my hands up to the fans, I’m gutted for them because we didn’t give them anything. We let them down.”

BRISTOL ROVERS (4-4-2): Phillips 7, Lescott 7, Coles 7, Hinton 7, Jacobson 7, Pipe 7, Campbell 9 Disley 6, Lines 6, Williams 7 (Rigg 76, 6), Lambert 8.

Subs Not Used: Walker, Igoe, Anthony, Carruthers.

SOUTHAMPTON (4-4-2): Davis 6, Ostlund 5, Davies 6, Powell 6, Wright 6, Viafara 5 (Hammill 87, 5) , Idiakez 5 (Wright-Phillips 57, 5), Euell 5, Surman 5, Saganowski 5 (McGoldrick 80, 5), John 5.

Subs Not Used: Poke, Thomas.

REFEREE: Mike Riley (West Yorks) 5: Riley and the FA Cup have never been compatible bedfellows in the past and some his decisions left both clubs bemused.

MATCH RATING: **** A thoroughly deserved upset for Rovers: Southampton were hopeless.

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