Dusan Tadic grabbed the attention after Southampton’s win over Manchester United – for his goal as well as misplacing his shirt and shin pads when sitting on the bench – but at the other end, it was another good day for goalkeeper Fraser Forster. That it came 24 hours after Joe Hart had entered a mixed showing in Manchester City’s draw with Everton raises questions for England manager Roy Hodgson to address.
Hart was beaten at his near post by Steven Naismith, the forward meeting Leighton Baines’ devilish delivery. Hart argued after the match that he had to make a decision given Naismith’s run but as the ball ended up in the back of the net, it can be said his decision was the wrong one. It directly led to City dropping two points, although Hart’s fine stop from Romelu Lukaku’s shot arguably ensured City left Goodison Park with anything at all.
Forster had no such trouble at Old Trafford. The former Celtic custodian didn’t have a shot to save and the sturdy performances of his back four offered excellent protection, but Forster’s command of the penalty area and the discipline he instils in the back line are to his credit. The clean sheet earned Forster 40
There are no England friendlies on the agenda for a short while so Hodgson doesn’t face an immediate decision, and Hart has enough in the bank to retain his place if there was a game played tomorrow. But the weekend was a reminder that his position isn’t unchallenged and Forster is an increasingly viable candidate to take the gloves for the Three Lions. At 26 and 27 respectively, Forster and Hart could be this generation’s Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton.
Forster is no doubt helped a great deal by the defence in front of him, whereas Hart has been deprived of the rock-like Vincent Kompany. The Belgian’s return can’t come quickly enough and it’s no exaggeration to say Kompany has at times kept the back four together single-handed. Forster, meanwhile, had to deal with the injury-enforced withdrawal of Toby Alderweireld after 21 minutes, so it wasn’t always straightforward for him either.
Between them, Forster and Hart should cover the goalkeeper’s position in the England side for the next decade or so. David Seaman’s last England appearance came when he was 39 and David James was pushing 40 when time was called on his international career. Forster and Hart have plenty of football ahead of them and if this isn’t yet their peak – goalkeepers tending to reach their best later than outfield players – then that bodes well for the future.
In the short-term Forster and Hart will continue to live the ups and downs of a goalkeeper, best evidenced in Hart’s weekend performance. Beaten by Naismith but equal to Lukaku, Hart can only look at Southampton’s defence – conceding five goals fewer than the champions – and wish for that protection.
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