Foster out to match Hart's progress at City

Birmingham City Blackburn Rovers 1
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The Independent Online

Ben Foster will hope that Joe Hart's experience means that Birmingham City is a lucky club for goalkeepers. Hart's progress during his season-long loan at St Andrew's earned him No 1 status on his return to Manchester City, relegating Shay Given to the bench. Hart now seems likely to be first choice in the England goal for the foreseeable future.

Having been offered the same escape route from a frustrating time in Manchester – in his case at United rather than City – Foster believes it could be the making of his career, too, after Saturday's brilliant penalty save from Morten Gamst Pedersen underlined his new-found confidence.

The 27-year-old was getting nowhere at Old Trafford, where he had slipped behind Edwin van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak, and he was overlooked for England's World Cup squad.

"The last few years have been disappointing," he said "When you've got nothing to train for at the end of the week it's a bit disheartening. Now there is a different feeling: you're buzzing, you're involved, you're an important part of the team.

"Joe was fantastic last season and you've seen how well he's done. He was frustrated at City, not playing, and had the chance to go out and show what he can do. Now it's my chance."

Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manager, can see his old goalkeeper and his new one contesting the England jersey but Foster, who has four senior caps so far, is not looking that far ahead. "I'm just concentrating on doing well for Birmingham. England comes into it a bit later."

Having paid £4m for Foster, potentially rising to £6m, McLeish believes he has spent wisely. "Ben's performance today shows how crucial it is for any team to have a good goalkeeper," he said. "Joe established a rapport with the defence, but Ben slotted in as if Joe never went away."

Four minutes after his penalty save, when he leapt high to his left to turn a well-struck kick on to the bar after Nikola Zigic had been penalised by the debutant referee Michael Oliver for tugging Chris Samba's shirt, Foster was beaten by a Steven Nzonzi header as Blackburn took a 54th-minute lead.

He had kept out a similar effort moments earlier and a diving save from a powerful Nikola Kalinic shot impressed Sam Allardyce, although the Blackburn manager's claim that only Foster had stood between his side and three points was not entirely convincing one. In fact, but for Paul Robinson's reaction stop from a first-half Scott Dann header, Birmingham would have led. Craig Gardner's two goals, one on the end of a skilful volleyed pass from James McFadden, the other after a neat flick by Sebastian Larsson, were ample rewards for the best football of the match.

Match facts

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Foster; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson, Gardner (Fahey, 82), Ferguson, McFadden (Bowyer, 77); Jerome, Zigic (Derbyshire, 66). Substitutes not used Taylor (gk), Murphy, O'Connor, Michel.

Booked Zigic, Larsson.

Blackburn Rovers (4-2-3-1): Robinson; Salgado, Samba, Nelsen, Givet (Mame Diouf, 73); Nzonzi, Jones (Emerton, 64); El-Hadji Diouf, Pedersen, Olsson; Kalinic (Hoilett, 84). Substitutes not used Bunn (gk), Jacobsen, Judge, Morris.

Booked Nzonzi, Mame Diouf, Nelsenigic.

Possession Birmingham 50%, Blackburn 50%

Shots on target Birmingham 7, Blackburn 1

Referee M Oliver (Northumberland).

Attendance 21,394.

Man of the match Foster.

Match rating 7/10.

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