Writer: Eamonn Moore
Date:Thursday April 7 2011
I'm far from being Richard Kingson's biggest fan, but he played well on Sunday. That said, there are still obvious question marks over his tenure as our number one goalie, especially with Matt Gilks and Paul Rachubka nearing full fitness.
The debate over who should be Blackpool's number one is certainly an interesting one, but it is one that has been done to death and I won't bore you with covering in any kind of depth here (Gilks would be my first choice comfortably).
However, it also got me thinking about the goalkeeping situation at our relegation rivals. After all, it is said that goalkeepers can win teams points on their own... so in that case, which of our rivals have 'Mr Reliable' between the posts and which don't?
Starting from the bottom up, Wigan had real keeper problems at the start of the season. Chris Kirkland went through a horrible run of form and was soon replaced by Ali Al-Habsi. Now, Al-Habsi's no world beater but he is a good 'keeper who is capable of keeping his team in games on his own at times. On loan at the DW Stadium from Bolton, he'll be desperate to earn himself a permanent move over the coming weeks. Hopefully he has an off day in couple of weeks though...
Wolves have chopped and changed keepers this season. Wayne Hennessy is their current number one and is a good, solid keeper. In reserve they have the experienced Marcus Hahnemann, Carl Ikeme and bizarre January signing Adriano Basso. Both Hennessy and Hahnmann have played against us this season, whilst Ikeme played against us when both teams were in the Championship. What this shows is that Wolves don't have a settled number one, and at this point of the season that could well cause a problem or two.
One team who do have a settled number one are West Ham. Rob Green made a wonder save from a Gareth Bale freekick a few weeks ago to earn his side a point against Spurs, but he's another keeper who can worryingly lurch from the sublime to the ridiculous at regular intevals. One week he'll keep his side in a game, then next he'll drop a clanger that costs them the points. His form over the coming weeks is key to West Ham's hopes of staying up.
Aston Villa have one of the better keepers in the division as their first choice in the shape of Brad Freidel. Experienced and reliable, Friedel will be hoping that he's not too busy in the coming weeks as Villa look to pull clear of the drop.
Birmingham also possess one of the best keepers in the league in the shape of Ben Foster. Foster truly is a keeper who can win his side points on his own, and he might just have to over the coming weeks when you take into account Birmingham's lack of goals.
If one keeper is truly key to a side's survival hopes, then it is Paul Robinson at Blackburn. A brilliant shot stopper and defensive organiser, Robinson also launches most of Rovers attacks with a long, long clearances. If Rovers do stay up, Robinson will have more than played his part.
West Brom's number one is currently Scott Carson. Hand on heart, he's one of the worst keeper's I've ever seen. Like our own Richard Kingson, he just seems utterly incapable of the basics. God knows how he got into the England squad recently! In reserve, the Baggies have Boaz Myhill, who, on his day, can perform like Superman.
Sunderland, Stoke, Fulham and Newcastle should all seal their safety sooner rather than later so we'll not dwell on their goalkeeping situations too long. In fact, we'll just say that they all have very solid first choice goalkeepers (and in some cases, very solid second choice keepers as well).
There's no real correlation between having a good goalkeeper and being higher up the table; there are ten other players to consider of course.
What is clear though is that the keepers at clubs towards the bottom of the division are going to be in the spotlight over the coming weeks, and they can either give an Oscar winning performance or get stage-fright and that, ultimately, could be the difference between survival and relegation.
Date:Thursday April 7 2011
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