Sammy Lee's tenure as Bolton's manager may have a bit longer to run given the spirited response of his team after they fell behind yesterday, narrowly keeping themselves off the foot of the Premier League. That is the position Derby, undoubtedly rivals in a season-long fight against relegation, still occupy but it is Lee, rather than his opposite number, Billy Davies, who has been feeling the heat.
Kenny Miller's second goal since joining from Celtic put the Rams ahead before Nicolas Anelka again came to Bolton's rescue with his fifth of the season after the half-hour in a game that, not surprisingly, became increasingly tetchy and nervous as it progressed.
"Prior to the game you would have accepted a point given the position we are in and while we don't plan for one point, I am pleased with the chances we created today," said Lee, whose team probably shaded it on that basis. "Derby are very organised and fighting for their lives like us. That is four games unbeaten, and confidence is starting to improve little by little."
Given the quality at Lee's disposal, it could be argued he is aiming a bit low when he is happy with a point at the Premier League's bottom club who, by Davies' own admission, were two years ahead of schedule when gaining promotion via the play-offs in May. Lee also seems reluctant to criticise his players. He could, though, be made to pay on both counts.
For Davies, who in contrast is hero-worshipped at Pride Park, there are fewer concerns about job security. "It was a hard-earned point against a team who, despite what is being said, have some very good players, especially the front three," said the Derby manager.
Derby started brightly and were worth the lead that came their way after 19 minutes. Matt Oakley's ball was chested down by Steve Howard and dispatched across the area where Miller met it with his left foot to beat Jussi Jaaskelainen in Bolton's goal.
Bolton might have folded, which could have meant the end for Lee. Instead their collection of maverick talents gradually started to piece things together and the equaliser arrived after 31 minutes. Anelka's one-two with Kevin Davies broke down but the Frenchman had time to collect and shoot past Stephen Bywater from the edge of the area, aided by a deflection off Dean Leacock's legs. "Poor defending," moaned Davies.
Bolton were revitalised. Kevin Nolan almost capitalised on a mistake by Tyrone Mears but sent the ball into Bywater's side-netting and then Gary Speed was sent through by a Davies header but was stopped unceremoniously, but legally, by Jay McEveley and Leacock.
Derby went close again four minutes after the interval but Miller's shot from McEveley's cross was brilliantly kept out by the Finnish goalkeeper.
Miller and the hapless Howard had further chances but it was Bolton who finished the stronger. El-Hadji Diouf just failed to get his head to a through pass from Ricardo Gardner and then, 12 minutes from the end, Bywater went some way to matching Jaaskelainen's heroics.
The substitute Christian Wilhelmsson saw a shot saved, Anelka's follow-up hit the bar and Nolan, picking up that rebound, was denied by Stephen Pearson on the goal-line. "That's football," said Lee, whose enthusiasm should be bottled up and sold. "We will have our breaks during the season." He will only hope he is around to enjoy them.Reuse content