Avoiding big guns puts well-travelled Trotters in dreamland
Published 14/03/2011 | 05:00
After winning three consecutive away matches to make the FA Cup semi-finals, Bolton supporters would probably have been confident playing away from the Reebok against whoever they were paired with in yesterday's draw.
Having avoided both Manchester sides to be handed a Wembley meeting with Stoke, who are six points behind them in the Premier League, supporters of Owen Coyle's side can perhaps be forgiven for clearing their diaries for the second weekend in May.
Successive victories at Wigan, Fulham and Birmingham have taken Bolton to within sight of a first final since 1958.
Those looking for an omen can point towards that victory 53 years ago, when the Trotters overcame Manchester United in the final, courtesy of two goals from the late Nat Lofthouse, while also beating York and Stoke en route. They also beat Manchester City in the 1926 final for the second of their four titles.
Stoke have never made the final, and the last of their four semi-final appearances was in 1972.
Both league meetings this season went the way of the home side, Bolton winning 2-1 in October before Stoke won 2-0 in January.
Manchester City's victory over Reading set up a meeting with neighbours United in what will be only the second time the clubs have met outside the city.
The Eastlands side have won just one of the eight meetings between the sides in the last three years, and went out to their neighbours at the same stage of last season's Carling Cup.
They last met United in a fifth-round tie in 2004, losing 4-2, and have been beaten in their last four FA Cup pairings with United.
Roberto Mancini's side have not won a trophy of any sort in 35 years, and their last FA Cup triumph came in 1969, when they overcame Leicester City.
Attempting to win the trophy for a record 12th time, and sixth under Ferguson, United's challenge could be hindered by a Champions League quarter-final second leg days before the semi-final, assuming they overcome Marseille in tomorrow's round of 16 second leg at Old Trafford.
City could have their own fixture pile-up, with a league meeting with Liverpool scheduled for the Monday before the semi-final weekend, along with a potential Europa League quarter-final -- should they overturn a first-leg deficit against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday.
Manchester City v Manchester United
Bolton Wanderers v Stoke City
(Ties to take place at Wembley on weekend of 16-17 April).