WITH a clean sheet, Neil Etheridge has made a good account of himself in his first appearance for Birmingham City FC, which earned a point following 0-0 away draw against Swansea City.
This was expected of the Philippines international, of course, considering his credentials that shone during his full-season Premier League stint a couple of years back.
But credentials alone are not enough to assure one’s slot even for a side like Birmingham, which plies its trade in the second tier English Football League Championship.
With manager Aitor Karanka, Birmingham, too, must ensure it stays in the league, better yet get promoted, so only the best, in-form players who function well as a unit must see action on the field.
That means Etheridge must play, as they say, his 101 percent best to keep his place in the squad as first-choice keeper.
And that is exactly what he did against tough attacking Swansea City last Saturday, Sept. 19.
For most of the match, the Birmingham goal was rarely under threat, while Etheridge made a few standard saves, including one where he parried a dangerous cross away from goal.
But it was in the dying minutes of the match when Etheridge showed why he’s a top-tier keeper.
Swansea centerhalf Marc Guehi managed to squeeze a shot past a line of defenders, but with the ball heading toward the bottom corner, Etheridge dived to deny the hosts all three points.
With the draw, Birmingham brought their tally to four points at seventh place in the league.
Etheridge, in an in-house club post-match interview, said he was pleased to start his Birmingham campaign with a clean sheet, while acknowledging the solid performance of his teammates.
But he was also quick to point out how the performance of teenage goalie Zachary Jeacock in the club’s 1-0 opening match gave him “added pressure” against Swansea.
Having said all these, Etheridge has not only shown that his head is in the game, but that his feet are planted firmly on the ground as well.
In this compressed season, Birmingham will do well to stick with an experienced Etheridge.