by Karl Hofer.
Chelsea overcame a resilient Derby side at the weekend in what could have been a tricky encounter in the FA Cup.
Goals from Oscar and a collectors item from John Obi Mikel were enough to see the blues through to the next round.
Whilst it was an absorbing match it did lack the spark of a game played between the two teams back in 1990, one in which an astonishing ten goals were scored as Chelsea won a see-saw game 4-6.
It’s a game I remember with great fondness, because I was there.
In those days I traveled the country watching Chelsea continually flatter to deceive at a variety of grounds, most of which no longer exist.
The Baseball ground was one such stadium. The home of The Rams was a weary place but cloaked in the kind of history none of these modern bowl-type stadia could ever capture. And also unlike many modern grounds it was conducive to a great atmosphere.
In what was a lively affair Chelsea started brightly and went ahead after Kerry Dixon converted a cross from Gordon Durie, but within a few minutes Derby had pulled level through Dean Saunders.
The next half hour didn’t provide too much by way of entertainment, and it was at this point my mate Vince who I had traveled with went to queue for halftime refreshments. No sooner had he disappeared under the stand Chelsea were ahead again, Dixon once more in the right place to tap in after good work from Rodney Trotter (or David Lee as he was also known).
Two-one quickly became three-one after some poor attempts at clearing the ball from Derby resulted in Durie slotting home. Halftime followed and I tucked into my pie trying not to laugh too much at Vince who was fuming that he’d missed the last two goals.
Chelsea’s grip on the game was always a brittle one (as was the way in those days) but the Blues defence completely fell apart after the restart as Ken Monkou had to go off injured. On came Peter Nicholas to replace the big Dutch man but he was unable to offer much by way of resistance.
Within minutes Trevor Hebberd fired home after Mick Harford had caused disarray in the box to bring the Rams within a goal. Derby were then level after the unmarked Saunders rose to head in Callaghan’s excellent cross for his second and fans spilled unto the pitch in celebration.
Celebration turned to jubilation when Gary Micklewhite made it 4-3 and the Derby faithful could not contain themselves, dancing on the pitch in front of the away end.
In a little over 13 minutes Chelsea had turned a winning margin of 3-1 into a 4-3 deficit, and sadly it was Nicholas, in what turned out to be his last appearance for Chelsea, who was getting the blame.
It was pretty grim in the away end at that point, with Chelsea having offered nothing by way of attack since the second half began it was feeling like one of those best forgotten games. Vince was particularly unimpressed having missed Chelsea’s second and third goals but with a splendid view of Derby’s comeback strikes. All was not lost however…
As Derby continued to try and exploit Chelsea’s utter inability to defend in any way, Graham Stuart broke from the back and fed Durie who delivered an inch perfect cross onto the head of the smallest man on the pitch. Suddenly parity had been restored thanks to the head of Dennis Wise. Yes, that’s how bad the defending was in this game.
Back came Derby again, but a long throw from Dave Beasant set Durie loose once more from the halfway line, and this time he advanced on the Derby goal himself to fire Chelsea 4-5 in front. We were delirious!
The icing on the cake came in added time from the young Graeme Le Saux who converted Stuart’s cross to make it six past England’s Peter Shilton (highlights are below).
At the final whistle Vince was smiling – not many away days ended like that I can tell you!
It was a game you could probably label under ‘How Not to Defend’ – which was surprising as Derby’s lineup included two of England’s stars from the World Cup that Summer, Peter Shilton and Mark Wright.
But Derby would win only 5 games all season and finish bottom, relegated along with Sunderland with Luton Town just surviving (only two went down). Top scorer Dean Saunders joined Liverpool for a record fee of £2.9m.
Chelsea would finish 11th that season, level on points with Spurs.