Bolton Wanderers 3
Derby County 3
With a paltry eight goals at the Reebok Stadium in the Premiership this season before yesterday Bolton's supporters have not been goal starved so much as suffered symptons of anorexia and you could have got outstanding odds against this result. Particularly as it had been 0-0 at half-time.
Any score was possible in a 28-minute period when defences disintegrated and six goals flew in. The advantage lurched from side of the pitch to the other, Bolton going ahead, Derby taking a 3-1 lead and finally the home side getting level again through Jamie Pollock. As Jim Smith said, "I think we've just gone second in the entertainment league."
No goals in the first half, six in the second, it suggests a drastic change in the game's character, but while Derby did undergo an extraordinary mood switch, Bolton could and should have scored on more than one occasion even before the interval.
Derby had conceded 12 goals in the preceding three away matches and from the start it did not require an FA coaching handbook to understand why. Jim Smith employed Christian Dailly as a man marker on Peter Beardsley which left Igor Stimac and Gary Rowett to nullify Nathan Blake and any runners from midfield.
This they failed to do - "we defended badly all over the pitch," Smith said - and if Terry McDermott had been playing in his prime there could have been a rout.
As it was Nathan Blake hit the bar and the post with a header after Chris Fairclough had flicked on a corner after five minutes and Andy Todd inexplicably passed to the wing when he was put clean through by Scott Sellars just before half-time. Add shots from Per Frandsen and Gudni Bergsson that scraped the posts and you get an impression of the lopsided balance of the play.
The scoreline was a whopping injustice which appeared to be about to be put right after 48 minutes when Sellars and Alan Thompson quickly passed the ball forward and Frandsen was brought down in the area by Stimac. Thompson converted the penalty, beating Mart Poom's dive to his right.
Derby's defence had been dreadful until this point but their attack could hardly start pointing fingers either so it was astonishing the transformation that came over the visitors. Their two Italians, Francesco Baiano and Stefano Eranio, had all the profile of the invisible man, then they combined gloriously for the latter to thrash the ball past Gavin Ward after 54 minutes.
Ten minutes later Dean Sturridge outpaced Jimmy Phillips on the right, his cross was parried by Ward and Baiano swept in the rebound and when the same combination executed a startlingly simple one-two for the former Fiorentina striker to make the score 3-1 it was difficult to reconcile it with the play we had seen.
Any team who can manage to turn a 3-0 lead into a 4-3 defeat as Derby managed to against Leeds last month give the opposition hope, however, and the visitors melted away just when they appeared to have taken an unassailable position.
Thompson crossed from the left after 72 minutes for Blake to imperiously head in his ninth goal of the season and with Derby reverting to their previous poor incarnation Bolton got the equaliser 16 minutes from the end. Frandsen burst through the middle, swept past Stimac and, having been forced to the right, back-heeled to Pollock who drove from a narrow angle into the far corner.
Had he expected to win after Derby had gone 3-1 up, Smith was asked. "Not with us no. We kept chasing the fourth goal when we should have kept it tight and hit them on the break."
Goals: Thompson pen (48) 1-0; Eranio (54) 1-1; Baiano (64) 1-2; Baiano (69) 1-3; Blake (72) 2-3; Pollock (76) 3-3.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Ward; Bergsson, Fairclough, Todd, Phillips; Pollock, Frandsen, Thompson, Sellars (Gunnlaugsson, 88); Beardsley (Johansen, 88), Blake. Substitutes: Cox, Johansen, Gunnlaugsson, Jaaskelainen (gk), Carr.
Derby County (3-4-3): Poom; Rowett, Dailly, Stimac; Kozluk (Burton, 72), Eranio, Carsley, C Powell; Sturridge, Baiano, Wanchope (D Powell, 72). Substitutes not used: Yates, Hunt, Hoult (gk).
Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).
Bookings: Derby: Rowett, Kozluk, Baiano.
Man of the match: Sellars.
Attendance: 23,037.Reuse content