Sodden pitch may help Rovers to sink Fulham

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The Independent Online

Bristol Rovers hope to use the inhospitable conditions at the Memorial Stadium to spring an FA Cup shock against Premier League strugglers Fulham tonight.

The League One side forced a third-round replay after a spirited 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage, but the replay was postponed last Tuesday due to a waterlogged pitch and the rearranged game is again at the mercy of the elements.

The pitch has been under covers after Bristol played Cardiff Blues in a Heineken Cup rugby union match on Sunday afternoon. Standing water was visible at the end of Rovers' 1-1 draw with Walsall on Saturday – prompting fears the Fulham game would be postponed again.

However, Rovers manager Paul Trollope was hopeful and said: "We will need a bit of luck with the weather, but we have invested heavily in new covers and hope the Fulham tie will be on. They may take a look at the pitch and not fancy it, while it will play to our strengths. But they are professionals and top quality players so we know it is going to be tough whatever the conditions."

The midfielder Craig Disley has staked his claim for a recall by scoring the Pirates' late equaliser on Saturday. Byron Anthony and Lewis Haldane have recovered from injuries, though the postponement of a reserves game has not allowed them to prove their form. Ryan Green is still having treatment on his Achilles' heel and will miss out.

Elsewhere, Akpo Sodje is ready to ignore injury again for Sheffield Wednesday in their third-round replay against Derby County. The big striker overcame an ankle injury to fire home the Owls' first goal in Saturday's 2-0 win over Sheffield United before being replaced after an hour.

Sodje's ankle forced him to miss the 2-2 draw at Pride Park this month and manager Brian Laws may decide to rest his star man again. But although he admits he has hardly had time to catch his breath following Saturday's euphoria, Sodje insists he and his team-mates are raring to go against the Premier League's bottom club.

The 27-year-old Sodje said: "It's getting better. I keep on resting, then training, but haven't done anything today. I've been in for treatment and it's a bit sore, but I'm getting closer to being fully fit and I'm desperate to play. It's up to the manager whether I play. Saturday was a great experience and although it took a fair bit out of us, it doesn't matter if you're winning."

Wednesday, who clinched only their second win in nine league matches on Saturday to inch clear of the bottom three in the Championship, have fallen at the first hurdle in the FA Cup for the past three seasons.

Swindon, during the 2004-05 campaign, Charlton and Manchester City, after a replay last season, have all sent them out, but Sodje senses an upset on home soil against Derby. He said: "It's very winnable and we're taking it very seriously."

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