Neil Etheridge: Walsall haven't given up hope
Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge insists Walsall have refused to give up hope of promotion – and vows the players will give their all to overcome Barnsley tonight.
The Saddlers' promotion hopes were dealt a devastating blow on Saturday, after they fell to a 3-0 defeat against Paul Heckingbottom's side in the first leg of their play-off semi-final.
But tonight they have the opportunity to make history and become the first League One team to overturn a 3-0 play-off deficit and reach the Wembley final.
It's a tall order but after scoring three or more goals on nine occasions this season, Jon Whitney and his squad know it is possible.
And Etheridge insists the players will give it everything they have in the hope of pulling off a stunning comeback.
He said: "There is no motivation needed. The reward is a place at Wembley and being one step away from the Championship.
"Motivation will not be an issue at all. It is black and white for every player that steps on that field. They need to give everything they have got to ensure we have a chance.
"Credit to Barnsley – they played very well on Saturday. But this is not over yet."
Walsall's strength of character was shown throughout the season, with Etheridge and his team-mates always able to bounce back in the face of adversity.
The Saddlers lost back-to-back games just once and also put in impressive displays following the departures of managers Dean Smith and Sean O'Driscoll.
Now Etheridge reckons the team is ready to produce a big response once again. He said: "Many times this season, we have bounced back.
"Whenever results have gone against us, the players have reacted in the right way. That is massive credit to the players. Now we have just got to go out and play our game.
"We have played extremely well throughout the season. We have won a lot of games where there was massive pressure on us.
"Look at the Gillingham game. The Fleetwood game. And, against Port Vale, we won 5-0 away from home.
"They are great performances and we hope to take those performances into tonight."
Despite entering the clash three goals behind, the Philippines international believes Walsall can't afford to be gung-ho in their approach this evening.
He said: "If they get a goal, you could argue it is game over. We can't go cavalier and leave ourselves exposed at the back.
"We will be looking for an early goal, but it's 90 minutes of football and they didn't score their first goal until the 44th minute on Saturday.
"We need to put the pressure on but in the way we feel is right for this tie."
Ehteridge also believes the Banks's crowd will have a big part to play, adding: "The fans have been fantastic this season.
"Now we need them behind us to create a great atmosphere for us to play in that is intimidating for them."
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