Wednesday 20 September 2017

Foster keeps Blues on path to survival

Birmingham City 2 Bolton 1

Harry Polkey

Birmingham City had cause to thank goalkeeper Ben Foster after a win which, such is the congestion in the bottom half of the Premier League, sees them jump five places up the table.



The England goalkeeper made a series of outstanding saves to ensure that an early strike from Kevin Phillips, and a second-half effort from Craig Gardner, were enough for City to take all three points against a Bolton side which, after replying with a classy volley from Johan Elmander 20 minutes from time, could not find the equaliser.

After taking just one point from their previous three games, an early Birmingham goal was the answer to manager Alex McLeish's prayers.

And it was scored by Phillips, but originated in Bolton left-back Marcos Alonso allowing himself to be caught in possession and Gardner's resulting shot being deflected for a corner.

Sebastian Larsson's delivery from the right found Phillips lurking in too much space and the 37-year-old shot past goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Once Bolton had shaken off their early lethargy, however, only Foster, with three fine diving saves from Daniel Sturridge, kept them ahead. Only after the interval did City regain the initiative. Shortly before the hour Gardner and Cameron Jerome exchanged passes before Gardner drove the ball past Jaaskelainen and in off the far post.

But again Bolton came back strongly, and Elmander's volley set up a final 20 minutes much of which was played out in the City penalty area, culminating with Foster somehow pushing Gretar Steinsson's firm header over the bar deep into added time.

"The enforced changes to the team didn't help and with Bolton getting the goal after we lost Stephen Carr, it was a bit of a blow," McLeish said afterwards.

"They got a wee scent of blood there and they put us under the cosh, but the guys stood up to it magnificently at the back again.

"It was a game we felt we really had to win. I don't like to use that term 'must-win' because what if you don't? Do you throw the towel in? But it was a big, big result for us."

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