Prior to the departure of Yaya Toure to the Africa Cup of Nations, Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini stated how he'd tried, and failed to find another player similar to the Ivory Coast international.

“I have tried to find another Yaya in my squad, but there isn’t another Yaya,” Roberto said.

Without him, the likes of James Milner and Nigel de Jong have stepped in to assist in increasing City's lead over Manchester United at the top of the Premier League to two points.

Granted, Mancini's side haven't juggled their other commitments as effectively, having been knocked out of the FA Cup and Carling Cup during Toure's absence, but the club's main objective of claiming the league title is very much on track. Mancini needn't have fretted.

However, if there's one player Mancini should be concerned about losing for a sustained period, it's goalkeeper Joe Hart, who only during the short time that Toure's been away, has proved himself to be indispensable to the City cause.

During the trip to Wigan, Hart showed his worth, saving from James McCarthy late on, a stop which secured a vital three points at the DW Stadium.

City will require similar resilience to what they've shown in recent weeks during the closing stages of the season and Hart's ability to make instinctive saves late on in matches could be the difference between a first title win for 44 years or another campaign of living in United's shadow.

Hart has proven himself to be as valuable a match winner for City as any of their big money superstars.

Last term, Hart claimed the Premier League golden glove, keeping 17 clean sheets in his first full season in the Premier League, while links with the vacant England captaincy prove his consistency isn't just being felt by his club.

His assured performances further emphasise Fabio Capello's mistake in not opting to start with Hart during England's World Cup campaign, and while the move wouldn't have dramatically affected the country's progress it would have provided the 24-year-old with valuable tournament experience.

Now established in the international set-up and a mainstay with his club, Hart appears ready made to become one of the world's best between the sticks. In so many ways, he's already filled that birth.

What Hart has earned in the past six months is an air of invincibility, and as Wayne Rooney proved last term, and Gareth Bale did last month, it often takes a truly brilliant strike to break his resolve.

With ample creative forces in City's roster, despite the accentuated brilliance of David Silva, the top end of the pitch is likely to take care of itself in the twilight of the season.

But Hart's performances will eventually prove to be make or break in City's quest to claim the title, and if successful the individual end of season awards are likely to be heading into his safe hands.

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