Neil Etheridge: All credit to the team

It was three massive points.

Neil Etheridge

Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge hailed Blues’ team spirit after their victory in the face of adversity away to Reading on Wednesday night.

Looking to make it back-to-back wins in the Sky Bet Championship, Blues were in control and led 2-0 at the break before an eventful second half tested the resolve of Aitor Karanka’s men.

Having halved the deficit, Reading were then awarded a penalty for which Harlee Dean was also dismissed for a second bookable offence.

Seeming the game could be slipping away from Blues there was another twist as Etheridge dived the right way to push Lucas Joao’s spot-kick away from danger.

Having produced a match-saving stop, the goalkeeper spoke exclusively to after the game at the Madejski Stadium. But instead of basking in his deserved glory, Etheridge was quick to deflect the plaudits onto the team who had felt hard done by when the hosts were given the chance to equalise from 12 yards.

He said: “I think it was a harsh penalty if I’m honest. I thought Harlee [Dean] got the ball but, obviously, it was fantastic to make the save. But all credit to the team! I’ve saved the penalty and it’s 2-1, but as a team, we’ve seen the game out.

“To go down to ten men against a team like Reading was always going to be tough, but like I said, we held our own.”

Blues’ number one continued in his explanation at just how much a second win on the road in the space of five days meant to the squad, revealing how Head Coach Karanka prepared them for the second-half battle.

He said: “It was three massive points and we needed to back up our performance from the weekend, and we did tonight. The gaffer told us at half-time that 2-0 can be a very troubling lead and I think we showed real character, even after it went 2-1, I think we showed great character to see the game out. Now, we’ve got another big game at the weekend.”

If Etheridge had been the match-winner at one end, then Jon Toral took that title at the other. His first half-brace proved the difference in the final scoreline, with his teammate, who was clearly delighted with him during the post-match celebrations, full of praise for Blues’ number 23.

“I’m really happy for him to be honest”, said Etheridge. “He’s obviously been wanting to play, and he’s played two games now. It shows what he can bring to the team. He’s scored two goals, and I am very happy for him!”

The successive wins over the Robins and the Royals come ahead of another tough test against recently relegated Watford at St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium on Saturday. And with Blues still looking to break into the top half, the Philippines international is feeling confident without getting carried away.

He explained: “We just need to keep building and, if I’m honest, the manager has told us that. We had a long sit-down meeting nearly a week ago now, and the players have responded. It’s a long season ahead, but we are definitely now showing signs of a hard to beat team.”