Neil Etheridge hasn’t quite lived up to last season’s heroics, so is it time for Neil Harris to consider a change?
One of Cardiff’s silver linings from last season was the performances of Etheridge in goal. The Filipino stopper pulled off some wonderful saves in the second-half of last season, as he and his teammates battled bravely against their eventual relegation back down to the Championship.
Cardiff fans went into this season with high hopes though of another solid season from Etheridge, but that’s not quite been the case, as is with their season overall.
Etheridge was dealt a cruel blow when he was forced off in Cardiff’s opening game of this season with a hamstring injury – Cardiff ahead when he was on the pitch, but went on to lose the game at Wigan.
He slowly but surely worked his way back from injury and had played every minute of the last 18 games for club and country, before being rested against Carlisle in the FA Cup last weekend.
It was his performance against QPR though that highlighted his downfall – albeit a terrible team performance, but Etheridge was dire.
Of the six that went in, Etheridge could’ve been held accountable in some way for most of them, and it begs the question of whether or not Neil Harris needs to consider a mid-season keeper switch.
It’s always a risky move for a manager to do so, especially at such a tender time in the season, but is it necessary? Etheridge’s performances certainly haven’t been up to the levels of last season.
Waiting in the background is Alex Smithies. The 29-year-old has been at Cardiff since June 2018 having signed from QPR, where he made over 100 appearances and earned himself a lot of respect as a good, Championship-quality keeper.
But since his move to South Wales he’s made only 13 appearances in all competitions, the bulk of them came when he stepped in for Etheridge earlier in this season.
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Cardiff fans know they have two good goalkeepers in Smithies and Etheridge, but has Etheridge become too comfortable with that number one spot, and does Smithies deserve a run in the team to prove his worth?
The Bluebirds have conceded 40 goals in 26 Championship games this season, having kept six clean sheets all season (Smithies with three in ten appearances, and Etheridge with the three in 16).
Perhaps this upcoming Welsh derby is an ‘all or nothing’ game for Etheridge. It’s hard to see him keep his spot for much longer if Cardiff conceded three or so goals this weekend, and if he’s the one held the accountable.
Tough decisions for Harris, but tough decisions need making in the Championship.