A look back to 2002….
saturday, 5th January, 2002
Bristol Rovers went into this FA Cup third round tie 87th place out of 92 league clubs. Derby County were then a Premiership side, with players like Ravanelli and Malcolm Christie.
With Rovers facing going out of the football legue for the first time in there 119 year history nobody expected Rovers to win.
But Young striker Nathan Ellington had different ideas. Ellington had only just really broke into league football, but produced a display that probally helped lead to the strikers departure from Rovers.
Guile, spirit, and clinical finishing booked Rovers’ place in the next round while Derby’s limp performance offered little resistance. Rovers’ game plan was clear from the start – saturate the midfield, deny Derby space and time on the ball and break quickly on the counter-attack.
Lewis Hogg was solid in the centre of the park for Rovers. Rovers were on the way as early as the 14th minute when Ellington out-paced the Derby defence to latch on to goalkeeper Scott Howie’s huge clearance.
Producing a mighty leap, the striker then looped his header over the advancing Mart Poom into an empty net.
After beating Youl Mawene and Francois Grenet, Ellington hit a low shot that took a deflection and squeezed past Poom.
Stunned into action after the break, Derby showed a greater appetite for the match and pushed forward in numbers.
Boosted by a couple of close efforts just before the interval, the Rams began to look more threatening.
But they remained frail at the back and still looked susceptible to a swift counter-attack.
Inevitably, when Derby were exposed for a third time, it was Ellington who was on hand to add further embarrassment.
A fine strike from the edge of the area sealed Derby’s fate and completed Ellington’s hat-trick.
Ravanelli made the scoreline a little more respectable for Derby late on.
But Derby were fortunate not to concede a fourth when Mark Walters drilled a low shot against the post.
It would not have flattered Rovers had it gone in.
Can Rovers show the spirit of 2002 again tomoorow? On paper we have a stronger side now than we did then.