Ridgewell ends Clough dream
DERBY COUNTY 1
BIRMINGHAM CITY 2
NIGEL CLOUGH'S dream of winning the one domestic trophy that eluded his father, Brian, was shattered – at least for this season – as Birmingham defender Liam Ridgewell snatched an injurytime winner at Pride Park.
Jay McEveley's 54th-minute strike put the Rams on course for a quarterfinal spot for the first time in 11 years, but Scott Dann headed home a James McFadden corner to level matters and then Ridgewell popped up with the decider. It was rough justice on the home side – and inspirational skipper Robbie Savage – and they deserved a second chance against a below-par City, with Kris Commons a constant handful for the away defenders.
And they would have got it, too, but for Joe Hart's heroic leap to turn a superb stoppage-time strike from Savage over the bar.
Afterwards, Birmingham manager Alex McLeish revealed that he has urged England manager Fabio Capello to pick Hart for the friendly against Egypt next month if he is thinking of taking him to the World Cup finals this summer.
Hart's form with Birmingham during his season-long loan from Manchester City has made him a strong candidate to go to South Africa and Capello told McLeish how impressed he has been with the young goalkeeper's progress when they met at a dinner last week.
It is more than 18 months since Hart earned his one senior cap – a 45-minute appearance in a friendly against Trinidad & Tobago.
“Joe is made of tough stuff and I think he could handle playing at that level,” McLeish said. “But it would be better to be fed into the system before you embark on a World Cup finals because one error in a World Cup finals is there for the whole world to see.
“It is scrutinised and the press are relentless in their persecution of people who make a mistake. At that level there is no hiding place and people are judged on that ultimately.”
McLeish was reminded of the misfortune suffered by another rookie, Scott Carson, who was the same age as Hart is now when his mistakes in the Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia in November 2007 cost England their place in the finals. “Scott Carson is a good ’keeper but it might have affected him,” he said.
Derby manager Clough played down hand gestures made by former Birmingham midfielder Savage towards the Blues' fans after Ridgewell had netted his dramatic winner.
He said: “I'd rather talk about the 95 minutes of football before that. If you want to make a big issue about a gesture from a captain of a team which has conceded so late in the game, then do that but I'd rather talk about more positive things.”
Savage was constantly barracked throughout the game in response to his controversial exit from St Andrew's.