Kevin Davies has pledged to honour Nat Lofthouse's memory by bringing the FA Cup to Bolton for the first time since 1958, and the Wanderers captain duly scored from the spot as he led his team into a Wembley semi-final. Yet the goal that broke brave Birmingham came in the last seconds of normal time from the South Korean substitute Lee Chung-Yong.
A wiry 5ft 11in, Lee is not exactly built like Lofthouse, who died in January, but Bolton's No 27 rose like an old-fashioned No 9 to power the ball home after Davies outjumped Jean Beausejour following Paul Robinson's delivery from the halfway line. His manager Owen Coyle predicted that "Chungy" would go on to play "for one of the top clubs".
Although the result was harsh on Birmingham, whose injury crisis left them with only four of their starting 11 from the Carling Cup victory over Arsenal, it was difficult to begrudge Davies the adulation of Bolton's 4,400 followers. In 1997 he was in the Chesterfield side denied an almost certain place in the final by a refereeing aberration by David Elleray, and in 2003 Gordon Strachan dropped him from Southampton's team for the final.
"Kevin's an outstanding player. I'm privileged to have him as captain," said Coyle, hailing the 33-year-old England latecomer "as a man and a role model". Asked about the prospect of Bolton emulating the team of 53 years ago, who beat the post-Munich Manchester United side with two Lofthouse goals, Coyle cautioned that there was still a semi-final to negotiate but added: "We're all conscious of that, of course, and it would be fitting if we did it."
It was quite an afternoon for the oldies, with Kevin Phillips, four years Davies' senior, scoring a fine goal which looked set to earn a replay for Birmingham. "It looked like a replay," said the beaten manager Alex McLeish, for whose relegation-threatened team a second match would have been less than ideal. "We had a makeshift side out but the performance was a plus."
Bolton took the lead with a well-worked goal. Fabrice Muamba, a former Birmingham player, was too powerful in the air for Barry Ferguson, and when the ball ran through to Ivan Klasnic, Johan Elmander anticipated the Croat's first-time flick to bury a low shot from 12 yards. Birmingham, further depleted when Martin Jiranek and Ferguson came off injured inside the first half-hour, soon retaliated. After a long ball was headed on by Cameron Jerome, David Wheater's weak clearance went straight to the same player. Taking one touch, Jerome surged into the 18-yard area before shooting between Jussi Jaaskelainen and his near post.
The second half became a story of penalty decisions – two not given and one controversially awarded. In the 54th minute, Curtis Davies handled under pressure from Gary Cahill as they contested a high ball. The referee, Phil Dowd, ruled the Bolton player's challenge illegal, prompting a furious tirade from Coyle that earned him a reprimand. Four minutes later, when Jerome's speed scuppered the offside trap, Jaaskelainen raced to the angle of his area and scuffed the ball away for a corner. Jerome crashed into the Finn's body, provoking appeals from Birmingham, but McLeish commendably described the official's judgement as "spot-on".
The next appeal produced the desired outcome for Bolton as Kevin Davies took possession with his back to goal, only for his namesake, Curtis, to tackle him clumsily frombehind. The striker picked himself up to beat Ben Foster from the spot.
Birmingham kept battling and Lee's first touch was to clear off the line from a header by Phillips. But when 17-year-old substitute Nathan Redmond propelled the ball forward with his head, Phillips reached it ahead of Cahill to hook the ball over the keeper from 20 yards. Lee's late intervention left scant time for Bolton's lofty ambition to be dented again.
Bookings: Bolton: Steinsson, K Davies.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: K DaviesReuse content