Rovers dump Fulham out of the FA Cup

Bristol Rovers 0 Fulham 0 (AET - Bristol Rovers win 5-3 on penalties)

Substitute Craig Disley was Bristol Rovers’ spot-kick hero as the Coca-Cola League One outfit knocked out Barclays Premier League strugglers Fulham from the FA Cup after a penalty shoot-out.

After 120 minutes of play failed to produce a goal, the third-round tie was decided by the lottery of a shoot-out, with Disley taking advantage of its only miss, by Jimmy Bullard, whose shot was saved by the excellent Steve Phillips.

The result was a stunning one for the Rovers faithful and their boss Paul Trollope, the ex-Fulham player, but yet more misery for new manager Roy Hodgson who has still to taste victory in his new post.

Hodgson had been busy off the field in the build up to this replay, which had been delayed by a week by bad weather and had only been given the go-ahead in the morning.

Former Liverpool forward Jari Litmanen, now 36, arrived on trial, midfielder Leon Andreasen was signed from Werder Bremen and Rangers striker Daniel Cousin appeared poised to join them for £3million after a bid was rejected by Groningen for ex-Manchester United forward Erik Nevland.

Fulham’s precarious Barclays Premier League position was the reason, and with the cup a lower priority Hodgson made six changes from the side that had been beaten 3-0 at home by Arsenal at the weekend.

Bullard, with two substitute appearances behind him, made his first start since his kneecap was ripped off its moorings at Newcastle in September 2006 and 19-year-old Wayne Brown was handed a debut, with goalkeeper Tony Warner getting a rare game.

Striker David Healy, with just one goal in his last 12 games, was recalled, as were defender Paul Konchesky and Chris Baird, and the opening exchanges saw Bullard and then Brown fail to hit the target from distance.

A clearer chance came Clint Dempsey’s way in the 18th minute but Rovers defender Steve Elliott was able to get in the way at the crucial moment. And at considerable personal cost too as he had to be stretchered off to be replaced by Disley, with Phillips then tested by a wayward header from his own man, Aaron Lescott.

Fulham were finding the sticky conditions at a muddy Memorial Stadium difficult to cope with and, after Brown had headed a good chance over, Rovers began to apply some steady pressure.

The Fulham back-line withstood most of it but was almost fatally undone three minutes before the break when Chris Lines got the better of Baird down the left and poked the ball across the box. In came David Pipe to meet it but Warner pulled off a top-class block to keep his team level.

Rovers had twice been ahead in the 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage and attacked relentlessly after the restart.

Danny Coles’ header clipped the top of the bar and Dejan Stefanovic had to get in the way of a Lines drive before the Rovers winger fluffed the next opportunity with too hasty an effort.

Healy had only occasionally been in the game but almost broke the deadlock on the hour mark with an audacious flick up and volley from 25 yards after the Rovers back-line had been unable to deal properly with an up-and-under from Bullard.

The ball was heading for the top corner but Rovers goalkeeper Phillips reacted smartly to palm it away with a dive to his left.

The Northern Ireland international then set up strike partner Dempsey for an even better chance but the American’s first touch was not the best and he ended up stabbing the ball at the grateful Phillips.

Neither side was able to fashion a decisive chance before the end of 90 minutes, although Fulham needed Moritz Volz to block a Lines effort on the line.

Brown was replaced by South Korea international Seol Ki-Hyeon for extra-time and there was relief among the away fans when Aaron Hughes’ alertness prevented Andy Williams from profiting from a Stefanovic slip.

The forward was immediately replaced by fresh legs in the shape of Sean Rigg but once again it was goalkeeper Phillips who was Rovers’ key man with a block from Dempsey after Seol had set him up and Healy, under pressure, could only lob the rebound over.

Both sides were looking exhausted in the final 15 minutes although Rickie Lambert came close with a drive that hit the side-netting and a blocked header from the same player bounced agonisingly past Disley in the six-yard box.

Stefanovic, who had been booked near the end of normal time, received a second yellow just before end and could take no part in the shoot-out.

Lines scored Rovers’ first but Bullard’s reply was saved.

With everyone else finding the net, up stepped Disley and he made no mistake to put Rovers through by a 5-3 scoreline.

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