Bolton Wanderers. . .1
EVEN the curse of the Baseball Ground could not save Bolton's Cup of dreams. The conquerors of Liverpool contributed as fully as their expensive opponents to a match of sometimes frightening intensity but did not have the finish when it mattered. Derby overcame their home jinx to reach the last eight for the first time in nine years.
It has been a strange season for Derby's owner, Lionel Pickering, who has spent pounds 10m in pursuit of a Premier League place only to witness nine home defeats in 13 First Division games. Cup glory may be an alternative accepted with mixed feelings.
At least what has happened so far in this competition seems to show that their pounds 2.5m outlay for a commanding centre-back was money well spent. Craig Short converted set-piece goals twice to give Derby the lead, maintaining his sequence of scoring in each round. Andy Walker cancelled out the first advantage but there was to be no second comeback and a well-executed third by Paul Williams put the tie beyond Bolton's reach.
Derby began with good reason to fear the giant-killing Second Division side. Playing at home has become a duty they do not relish.
In reality the odds were against Bolton. Deprived by injuries and suspension of key players, most notably their first-choice centre- backs, they were vulnerable.
Reflecting on the match, their manager, Bruce Rioch, returning to the ground where he enjoyed success as a player in the Seventies, had only compliments for Jason Lydiate and Alan Stubbs, the back-line stand-ins, but the finger pointed at them when Short ranged forward unnoticed in the fifth minute to head home Mark Pembridge's free-kick. The mistake was almost repeated five minutes later when Williams met another Pembridge cross.
It was a start to calm Derby nerves but Bolton had sufficient self-belief to battle back impressively. David Lee and Mark Patterson both forced good saves from Martin Taylor and reward came on the half-hour from a clearly rehearsed move when Phil Brown's near-post glance from Patterson's corner was converted by Walker at the opposite upright.
The goal raised the tempo to a level that tested the referee's authority. He booked two players from each side and might have been harsher with Derby's Martin Kuhl, who engaged in a feud with Bolton's Jason McAteer.
Then another set piece put Derby back in front, Marco Gabbiadini heading on Pembridge's free-kick, Short stabbing home left-footed.
A foot on the goal-line denied John McGinlay an instant equaliser but this time Derby consolidated, Williams slotting the ball past Keith Branaghan with admirable precision.
Bolton now produced, belatedly, their best football and had McGinlay's header with nine minutes left not been pushed on to a post by Taylor there could have been quite a finish.
Derby County: M Taylor; M Patterson, M Forsyth, S Coleman, C Short, M Pembridge, P Williams, M Kuhl, P Kitson, M Gabbiadini, P Simpson. Subs not used: T Johnson, A Comyn. Manager: A Cox.
Bolton Wanderers: K Branaghan; P Brown, D Burke, D Lee, J Lydiate, A Stubbs, S Storer, J McAteer, A Walker, J McGinlay, M Patterson. Subs not used: D Reeves, J Darby. Manager: B Rioch.
Referee: B Hill (Kettering).
Goals: Short (1-0, 5 min); Walker (1-1, 30 min); Short (2-1, 62 min); Williams (3-1, 67 min).