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Neil Etheridge has thanked the “BCFC family” for helping him return to Birmingham City’s first team.
The 31-year-old played for the first time this season in Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup exit to Fulham.
While he was on the losing side in a two-goal defeat, the match was far more symbolic as his first since being hospitalised by Covid-19.
Etheridge first tested positive in late June-early July, returned from the pre-season tour to Scotland, spent a couple of weeks at home before being admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
That cost him the first five of Blues’ matches this season – before Tuesday evening’s return, after which he took to social media to express his gratitude.
He Tweeted: “Not the result we wanted last night, but I just wanted to say thank you to everyone and the entire BCFC family and supporters that have supported me getting to this point. It’s not been easy but last night was another step in the right direction. #thankyou #support #return.”
It took just two minutes of his Birmingham City debut for Dion Sanderson to show Blues fans why Blues were so keen to bring him to St Andrew’s.
Midway inside his own half the 21-year-old Wolves defender easily beat Neeskens Kebano to a loose ball and then facing the Main Stand he produced an elegant drag back that took the Fulham winger out of the game.
A simple pass into midfield and Lee Bowyer’ s side were on the move.
Indeed the opening ten minutes of Sanderson’s first match in four months went just as well as he could have hoped.
That piece of skill was followed up a few moments later with another feint which sent Kebano for half time pies.
All style no substance? Hardly, shortly after that he made a quick decision to close down Tyrese Francois deep in Fulham territory and fairly clattered the Australian.
After 24 minutes, having found space behind Marcel Oakley, Kebano got his turn. One-on-one with Sanderson on the edge of the Blues area, the defender held his line, refused to commit and Kebano ended up squaring for Joe Bryan, who fired wide from the D.
Early in the second half he was on hand to help out Oakley after the rookie right wing back under-hit a back pass.
Birmingham City’s brief participation in the Carabao Cup came to an end at St Andrew’s on Tuesday evening.
A first half piledriver from Jay Stansfield and stoppage time sucker punch from Antonee Robinson saw Blues exit at the second round stage.
However, Lee Bowyer preferred to focus on the positives produced by the appearance of three debutants and the return of Neil Etheridge.
The 31-year-old played for the first time since he was hospitalised by Covid-19 over the summer.
Here’s what stood out on an underwhelming evening in a mostly empty stadium.
The financial difference between the two clubs was immediately obvious from the team sheet.
Both managers made ten changes to their victorious weekend XIs, but while Marco Silva was able to bring £20million defender Alfie Mawson into his defence, Bowyer deployed homegrown Mitchell Roberts in his.
Free signing Chuks Aneke started up front for Blues, while Silva introduced Bobby Decordova-Reid who last season played 33 Premier League games.
Dennis Odoi and Joe Bryan operated at full back for the visitors, while Blues’ wing backs Marcel Oakley and Juan Castillo have five appearances between them.
Fulham’s bench was stuffed with the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Tosin Adarabioyo and Ivan Cavaleiro, Blues’ had a 15-year-old at one end of the experience spectrum and Charlie Lakin at the other.
Given that the result can hardly be surprising, what’s worth bearing in mind is that Fulham are just one of six recently relegated Championship teams still in receipt of Premier League parachute payments.
To be even talking about bridging that kind of gap, not just in one game but over a whole season, demonstrates the task ahead of Bowyer and how far he has come so far.
Lee Bowyer made ten changes to his Birmingham City side for their Carabao Cup clash with Fulham.
It proved too many as Blues were beaten 2-0 by goals from Jay Stansfield and Antonee Robinson to exit the competition.
However, the head coach was not downcast and instead preferred to focus on the number of debuts he handed out and the return of Neil Etheridge.
Here’s very word that was said in is post-match press conference.
Any movement with transfers in or out?
“Not at the moment. We are still trying to work hard behind the scenes, Craig is constantly working, phone call after phone call.
We are working on trying to being one or two more in.”
Lee Bowyer revealed Wolverhampton Wanderers rejected advances from a Premier League rival to send Dion Sanderson on loan to Birmingham City.
The 21-year-old played his first game in more than four months on Tuesday night – and gave a composed performance on his Blues debut.
That first appearance was ended prematurely are the centre back was struck down by cramp with a quarter of an hour of the Carabao Cup loss to Fulham remaining.
It also represented what Bowyer hopes will be the first of many after Blues won the race to sign him.
Sunderland were keen on taking him back to the Stadium of Light while Sheffield United were also linked, with talk of a permanent move away from Molineux.
And Bowyer claimed Wolves were not short of suitors for a player who ended up signing a long term deal to stay at Wolves – before being loaned out.