Rivalry keeping West Brom sharp, says Ben Foster

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West Bromwich Albion favourite Ben Foster today claimed a fierce fight for places is helping to keep standards high at The Hawthorns.

The Baggies keeper believes the battle between Shane Long and Romelu Lukaku for a starting spot is typical of the competition that is keeping Steve Clarke's men on their toes.

On-loan Lukaku was surprisingly preferred to leading scorer Long at Newcastle on Sunday and responded with a goal and a bright performance in the 2-1 defeat.

And Foster said: "We've got competition all over the pitch. There's not one position that's guaranteed and that's fantastic for the team because you know if you're not performing at 100 per cent there is somebody waiting to take the position off you.

"That means everybody raises their standards even more. But we get on so well as a team, we've got a great team spirit, and that's down to type of the people we bring in."

Lukaku bagged his third Premier League goal in just his second start at the weekend and Foster paid tribute to the 19-year-old Belgium international, who recovered from two first-half misses to head his side level.

"He is a handful," said Foster. "You know he will always get on the end of chances and I don't think we can even say he missed those chances in the first half. "

Albion hope that Claudio Yacob will shake off a hamstring problem to face Southampton on Monday but Foster has hailed the midfielders who filled in for the Argentine at Newcastle.

"I don't think you can cover Claudio because he has been absolutely immense," said Foster. "We did miss him but the lads that came in did well."

* Young defender James Hurst has returned to Albion after Birmingham decided not to extend his loan.

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