Nigel Clough was the most relieved man inside Pride Park after watching Derby County limp into the FA Cup fourth round at the expense of brave Millwall courtesy of a penalty shoot-out.
Championship strugglers Derby looked to be heading out of the competition altogether after Millwall finally broke the stalemate in extra-time when Steve Morison bundled the ball home from close range at the second attempt in the 108th minute.
But home substitute Steven Davies produced a cool finish six minutes later to haul the hosts level and make sure the contest went to a sudden-death finale. When Danny Schofield missed his penalty for the visitors, Clough's men held their nerve and Dean Moxey converted the vital spot kick to book his side a home tie against either Brentford or Doncaster Rovers in the next round.
Clough said: "There was grit and determination in difficult conditions at times. There was a lot of honesty and endeavour not to lose the game tonight. I'm very, very pleased with the determination. But it won't be just tonight, that will be the case every game now. It's black and white and we've told the players this."
Clough's recent misfortune in a miserable run of just one win in eight games was personified by Stephen Pearson as early as the 10th minute when he missed a glorious chance to put Derby ahead and dampen the frustration of those fans braving freezing temperatures in the Midlands.
Millwall could have gone ahead through Steve Morison, who shot wide in the ninth minute, while Lewis Grabban wasted a good opening in the 20th minute as Kenny Jackett's side showed promise on the break. Apart from Pearson's strong run, the only other threat Derby posed was when Chris Porter's brave header flashed just wide.
The home side, undoubtedly inspired by a half-time blast from Clough, looked much sharper in the second half and began to dominate, yet their finishing remained woeful. The worst miss arrived in the 69th minute when Porter had a glorious chance in front of goal. It seemed easier to score but the tall striker somehow managed to side-foot his shot against the crossbar.
Derby County (4-4-1-1): Bywater; Green, Buxton, Addison (Barker, 43), Moxey; Croft, Savage, Pearson, Johnson; Commons, Porter. Substitutes not used: Deeney (gk), Connolly, McEveley, Hulse, Teale, Davies.
Millwall (4-4-2): Forde; Robinson, Smith, Frampton (Barron, 32), Ward; Abdou, Laird, Martin, Hackett; Grabban, Morison. Substitutes not used: Sullivan (gk), Dunne, Schofield, Grimes, Fuseini, Price.
Referee: D Foster (Tyne & Wear).Reuse content