Stoke City 0 West Bromwich Albion 0 match report: Stoke kept at bay by resurgent Ben Foster


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The Independent Football

A match brimming with energy if lacking in quality at least saw Ben Foster underline Roy Hodgson's sound judgment in naming the West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper in his squad for the coming World Cup qualifiers.

Foster, who ended his self-imposed exile from international football earlier this month after recovering from a double hernia operation last November, was in commanding form as Stoke bombarded the Albion penalty area, rarely making an error.

It continued a miserable 2013 for Stoke, who ended 2012 with a 10-match unbeaten run but have picked up only five points from 10 Premier League matches since the turn of the year. This was the 13th match they have failed to score in this season and they rarely looked likely to break Albion's resolve. Their best chance came in stoppage time, when substitute Kenwyne Jones controlled a cross on his chest and toe-poked it at goal. Foster blocked the way. "When the luck is going for you, that goes in – but he hits it straight at Foster," Tony Pulis, Stoke's manager, lamented.

The Albion manager, Steve Clarke, felt his man deserved more credit. "In difficult conditions, especially in the last 15 minutes, his handling was excellent," he said. "After his second operation, it took him three or four weeks to get himself up to speed but since then his performances have been top level.

"It is for Roy [Hodgson] to decide whether he challenges Joe Hart for a place but it is good news for England to have another good player available."

Foster's cause was helped by his defenders. Gareth McAuley was outstanding, and fellow centre-back Jonas Olsson not far behind in ensuring another frustrating day for Peter Crouch, who has scored only one goal in the Premier League since September.

Albion were not much brighter in attack, although in the second half Romelu Lukaku somehow failed to connect with a Liam Ridgewell cross he looked certain to convert.