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Monday, January 7, 2008
Fulham fans outnumbered by FA Cup visitors

Fulham were embarrassed on and off the field by Bristol Rovers as the League One side not only earned a fully deserved FA Cup third round replay but brought enough fans to Craven Cottage to outnumber the home crowd.

Fulham confirmed that demand from the west country was so large that they issued extra tickets to the away side, bringing the Rovers travelling contingent to more than 7,000, while Fulham's fans largely stayed away to leave the official attendance at just 13,634.

Yet new Fulham manager Roy Hodgson - who saw his side forced to fight back twice with equalisers by David Healy and Danny Murphy after Danny Coles' early deflected strike and Craig Hinton's 65th minute header - refused to be anything but positive about the 2-2 draw in only his second game in charge.

The former Inter Milan, Blackburn, Switzerland and Finland boss, who started his managerial career at Bristol City, insisted: 'A foundation has been laid, to an extent, that I can build upon.

'I know people will ask how I can be positive when my first two games have resulted in a defeat by Chelsea and a draw against a lower division team, but I don't care about that.

'I'm entitled to say what I think and I believe I've seen a performance full of commitment and desire. Of course, nobody's happy with the result but sometimes you have to look beyond results and see what really happened.'

The Fulham fans who did turn up clearly did not concur. They jeered their team off at the end and it is becoming a common occurrence.

Hodgson, 61, has a big job on his hands to turn it around but does not seem to be too desperate to bring in new blood even though he said: 'The chairman has indicated he is not averse to us making new signings.

'But the players we may need will be hard to find in this transfer window. they have got to fit the right profile and I'm aware you can take an enormous risk on getting somebody who doesn't.

'It is no good me piling up new players who are no better than what we have. We've got a few days' grace now (before a league trip to West Ham) to work with those players and put right what we think are the wrongs.

'We've conceded all four goals while I've been here to set-plays and we have to do something about that.'

Hodgson briefly bridled at suggestions that a lack of confidence, stemming from negative results is stunting Fulham's creative ambition.

Former Fulham star Paul Trollope, Rovers' manager, was proud of his side's performance but admitted that last season's promotion play-off winners were left with a tinge of disappointment.

He said: 'They were magnificent and we gave our fans plenty to shout about but we know we could have won it on the day. The players are pleased, but not jubilant. And we have still got it all to do because Fulham are still favourites coming to us.

'But I can't imagine they will be very happy to come to our place at the Memorial Stadium in a replay on Tuesday week under lights. We'll have some more players back and we'll be right up for it.

'Hopefully we can land that cup shock after all.'




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