PRESTON, England (AFP) - France striker Nicolas Anelka took the plaudits after his goal inspired a 2-0 win at Preston keeping Chelsea on course to land the FA Cup for the third time in four seasons.
Anelka set the platform for the Premier League club's fourth round success at Deepdale on Saturday with his fifth goal in four games.
Young strike partner Daniel Sturridge doubled the holders' lead in the second half as Carlo Ancelotti's team saw off Darren Ferguson's Championship outfit.
But it was Anelka's performance which caught the eye of Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins and he was keen to salute the former Arsenal and Real Madrid star.
"He's playing some outstanding football at the minute," Wilkins said. "He's clearly enjoying his football and training.
"He's an outstanding player and hopefully he will carry in this rich vein of scoring form."
Wilkins insisted Chelsea's professional performance against Preston is proof that the west London club are determined to retain the FA Cup they won last May after beating Everton 2-1 in the final.
"I thought our lads were extremely professional," he added. "This is not an easy place to come and the Preston fans really got behind their team.
"But we are the holders and we want to retain it. This is not an easy place to come and the fact that Carlo picked a strong team shows how seriously we are treating the competition."
Wilkins refused to blame referee Mike Dean for disallowing a goal by substitute Florent Malouda when the tie was goalless.
Malouda found the net soon after coming on in the first half for the injured Juliano Belletti. With the scores locked at 0-0, the goal was ruled out as the referee had blown for a foul committed on Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard.
"In our eyes it was the wrong decision," added Wilkins. "But I'm not going to have a go at the referee. We got a free kick out of it and didn't make the most out of it."
Lampard was substituted in the second half after suffering a calf problem, but Wilkins is hopeful he will be available for Wednesday's home game with Birmingham City.
The tie might have had a different ending had Preston midfielder Darren Carter not missed from three yards towards the end of the first half, when the score was 1-0.
Ferguson, son of Manchester United manager Sir Alex, refused to criticise Carter for his astonishing blunder, which came after Portuguese keeper Hilario had failed to hold a header by Chris Brown.
"At half time I said to him to keep getting stuck in," said Ferguson, taking charge of his first home game since replacing Alan Irvine as Preston manager earlier this month.
"I didn't want him hiding in the second half. The lad needed a bit of a lift, but that's football.
"A few minutes before half time we miss a great chance and two minutes in the second half we concede a goal.
"But I can't have any complaints about my players. We played some great football."
Ferguson revealed Celtic had made an inquiry for Republic of Ireland international defender Sean St Ledger, but said: "Celtic have no chance of getting him on what they are offering."
|S. St. Ledger|
|Coach: D. Ferguson|
|Bertrand joins Southampton on loan|
|Van Aanholt features as Sunderland fall to defeat|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Celtic hammered in Warsaw|
|Collison stakes his claim as QPR are held|
|Newcastle youngsters edge to Wednesday win|
|Villa beaten by buoyant Chesterfield|
|Juve held by new boys Cesena|
|Late Drinkwater strike helps Leicester see off Walsall|
|Everton seal club-record Lukaku deal|
|Lazio complete De Vrij capture|
|Fabregas opens account in Chelsea win|
|AFA president Grondona dies aged 82|
|Trezeguet heading for Indian Super League|
|Premier League to introduce vanishing foam|
|Rennes bring in Bruls|
|Kehl steps down as Dortmund captain|
|Capello: I´m staying until 2018|
|Pedro saddened by Fabregas departure|
|Fernandez agrees Porto switch|
|West Ham close on Jenkinson, says Allardyce|
|Donnelly out for three months|
|Chambers: It has been a whirlwind|
|Lukaku drops Chelsea exit hint|
|Mee signs new deal at Burnley|
|Lovren denied United States visa|
|Redknapp admits Fer interest|
|No official Cuadrado bids, insists agent|
|Maguire ready to make step up|
|Rodgers: Liverpool have a strategy in transfer market|
|Ki out to prove himself at Swansea|
|Garcia plays down importance of Real scalp|
|Evian complete Bruno signing|
|Poyet frustrated by lack of new faces|
|Mexes convinced Milan are improving|
|Mazzarri praises Inter attitude|
|Ronaldo could face Manchester United - Ancelotti|
|Tevez thanks fans after father found ´safe and well´|
|Gabi braced to tackle big-spending rivals|
|Shaw: I deserved Van Gaal criticism|
|Morinigo surprised by Gedoz substitution|
|Honduras appoint Medford|
|Van Gaal delighted with United display|
|Roma battle past Real Madrid|
|Simeone talks up Hernandez transfer|
|Defensor Sporting 1 Nacional Asuncion 0 (1-2 agg): Visitors into final despite loss|
|United edge Inter on penalties|
|Gerrard: It´s been ´the worst three months of my life´|
|Sabella set to quit Argentina post|
|Toure plans to see out career with City|
|Tevez´s father released after kidnapping|
|Benitez denies Callejon spat|
|Brownhill stunner downs Burnley|
|Sunderland edge out Recreativo|
|Barton and Hoilett earn QPR draw|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Lafata treble puts Sparta in command, Slovan beat Sheriff|
|Gomis opens Swansea account at Exeter|
|Schneiderlin hints at Southampton discontent|
|Scolari makes Gremio return|
|Bojan strike in vain as Schalke beat Stoke|
|Tevez to miss friendly amid kidnap reports|
|Porto sign Jose Angel from Roma|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Trencin v Hull City|
|Liverpool land Origi|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Torino return to Europe after 20-year absence|
|Rodriguez and Schneiderlin not for sale, say Southampton|
|Rakitic: Not all about front three|
|Barkley pens new Everton deal|
|Guardiola relishing Chivas friendly|
|Drogba targets Premier League glory|
|Hull make Maguire and Robertson double swoop|
|Perisic blow for Wolfsburg|
|Ibrahimovic scores hat-trick as PSG hammer Kitchee|
|Al-Hilal coach sacked over referee row|
|La Liga boss wants cream of the crop|
|Valencia granted work permit, completes West Ham move|
|Atletico complete deal for Griezmann|
|Reus focused on fitness battle despite ´major European interest´|
|Barcelona announce club-record revenue|
|Bony could be sold for right price, says Jenkins|
|Confidence key for Newcastle, says Taylor|
|Saivet out for four weeks with knee injury|
|Genk part company with Ferrera after just one game of season|
|Gold clarifies Twitter gaffe|
|Vidic adapting to different style at Inter|
|Toulouse bring in Matheus|
|Butragueno backs Rodriguez to cope with pressure|
|Benteke aiming to come back stronger|
|Valdez joins Frankfurt|
|Jovetic ready to shine|
|Simeone hails Griezmann qualities|
|Monk unsure over De Guzman future|
|Benitez: Michu will take time to adjust|
|Diaby confident of staying fit|
|Shaw not fit enough, says Van Gaal|
|MLS Preview: RSL look for attacking spark|
|Monk slaps ´astronomical´ price on Bony´s head|
|Australian clubs looking at Ronaldinho|
|Sinclair enjoying ´one of the best pre-seasons´|
|Spiranovic surgery a success|
|Seattle Sounders 0 Los Angeles Galaxy 3: First-half blitz fires Californians to victory|
|Lemina thrilled with Bielsa effect|
|Bayern´s Green chomping at the bit|
|Palace complete US tour with easy win|
|Carragher: Liverpool didn´t want me|
|Simeone: Atleti´s La Liga triumph was no fluke|
|Sturridge: ´I´ll step up´|
|Van Gaal: Formation gives United flexibility|
|Mathieu insists age is no barrier|
|Martinez the deal sealer, says Besic|
|Coaches embrace blockbuster Serie A start|