Derby manager Paul Jewell saluted his Cup kings after Nathan Ellington’s late penalty at Stoke clinched a place in the League Cup semi-finals.
Ellington kept his nerve to slot home in injury-time after Andy Griffin had been penalized for handball by referee Rob Styles.
Tuesday’s victory gave the Championship club their first appearance in the last four of a major cup competition since 1968, and Jewell was full of praise for the way his side stood up to the challenge from one of the Premier League’s most physical teams.
“It was a great victory for us,” Jewell said. “Stoke is a tough place to go to, as Arsenal, Tottenham and Aston Villa have found out. Stoke showed us respect by playing most of the big-hitters, and it was then an examination of character after our last three away games, all defeats.”
“You can hardly find a tougher place to come; we showed character and strength. And mental courage, it is not easy here. Stoke do not get enough credit, they have good footballers,” he said. “People only talk about the long throws and set-plays. They are very good at them, but they also have some good footballers.”
Jewell admitted he was concerned that Ellington’s laidback penalty style might come back to haunt him, but the former Wigan striker calmly rolled the spot-kick past Steve Simonsen in second half stoppage time.
“People may have expected Nathan to blast a penalty in the last minute of a cup tie, but that is the way he takes penalties,” Jewell said. “One of these days he is going to miss one like that and I will give him a rollicking, but that is how he does it. He waits for the keeper to move and rolls it in.”
Stoke boss Tony Pulis was critical of the late penalty decision by Styles, saying: “He made a couple of mistakes in my book, but then so did a few of my players.”
“It was our fault we have gone out, we had plenty of chances and Ricardo Fuller could have had four,” he said. “But I am not going to slaughter the referee, he just made a couple of mistakes.”