Was this the night the curtain fell on Joe Hart’s England career?
With 75 caps and four tournaments under his belt, there was a strong case that the West Ham keeper’s vast experience would prove invaluable for Gareth Southgate at this summer’s World Cup.
But, in front of the watching England manager, Hart’s late spill of Xherdan Shaqiri’s shot to gift Peter Crouch a Stoke lifeline may well mean he’s watching events in Russia from the comfort of his armchair.
Peter Crouch scored with 11 minutes remaining for relegation threatened Stoke City
Hart had to stand miserably afterwards as the Stoke fans chanted ‘England’s No 4’ at him. It was the ultimate indignity for the stopper who was the undisputed England keeper for so long.
There was no doubt that Jack Butland, at the opposite end of the pitch, had won the battle of the potential England goalies here.
Butland may not have the experience, but he does have the form, and a succession of important saves with legs, fists, arms and even his chin furthered his case.
He was a one-man wall between the posts, keeping West Ham at bay until the death and keeping the light flickering that Stoke’s proud decade-long stay in the Premier League could be extended against all odds.
Crouch celebrates his goal – but West Ham equalised late on to dent Stoke’s survival hopes
Jack Butland was beaten by Carroll’s shot in the dying minutes at the London Stadium
Unfortunately, Andy Carroll’s 90th-minute equaliser, which beat Butland’s resistance at last, may have snuffed that out.
Nonetheless, Southgate would certainly have taken note and been impressed by Butland as he sat alongside his assistant Steve Holland in the posh seats at the London Stadium.
Butland may only have seven caps for the Three Lions and he may have been involved in a relegation battle all season, but there have been some defiant performances for Stoke.
In the first-half, he stuck out a leg to save from Arthur Masuaku and then made a courageous save with his chin when Marko Arnautovic hammered the ball goalwards at point-blank range.
Marko Arnautovic was twice denied at the near post by Butland during opening 45 minutes
The way Butland stood tall to repel the hammer shot without flinching was impressive and furthered his cause amid fierce World Cup competition from Hart and Nick Pope of Burnley.
It looks increasingly likely that Everton’s Jordan Pickford will be one of the trio. He may only have two caps to his name but certainly impressed in the goalless draw with Germany last November and last month’s 1-0 win in Holland.
Southgate likes how Pickford is comfortable with the ball at his feet and astute in selecting the right pass out of defence, something that plays perfectly into his game plan.
But the other two places remain very much up for grabs. Hart may have been a marginal favourite given his experience and an opportune return to the team –having spent most of the season benched with Adrian between the posts.
This mistake has come at the worst possible time for Hart, in context of club and country.
Butland could well take his place and the third spot may go to Burnley’s Pope, who is currently in favour at Turf Moor ahead of Tom Heaton, capped three times for the national side.
With 48 days to make a decision before the submission deadline, Southgate’s call in one part of the pitch at least may have just become whole lot easier.