Reading tried to turn game into a ‘fight’ – Sunderland star

ON THE SPOT ... Sunderland's Craig Gardner.
ON THE SPOT ... Sunderland's Craig Gardner.

CRAIG Gardner says Sunderland must quickly put the disappointment of defeat at Reading behind them.

Gardner’s adamant that the Black Cats must be ready to bounce back when Arsenal come to the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

The central midfielder – who has served Sunderland mainly at right-back this season – says that the Gunners game will offer a great opportunity to be involved in match which could lift everyone after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat in Berkshire.

But he feels that by rights, Sunderland should be going into their next fixture on the back of a win, rather than a defeat.

“It’s Arsenal at the weekend at home, and it’s a chance for us to kick back,” he said.

“We now need to pick ourselves up, because I thought we should have won the Reading game really. We had some good chances.” Gardner scored Sunderland’s goal from the penalty spot at the Madejski Stadium, with the strike his second successful penalty in successive away games.

But he was as downcast as any of his team-mates after losing the game in the dying minutes against one of the Premier League’s rougher diamonds.

“It was a game they tried to turn into a fight,” he said.

“It wasn’t football, it was a fight.

“But it doesn’t matter, we can’t be conceding goals in the last 10 minutes of a game.

“It was a tough game, they were just hoofing everything into the box from the goalkeeper, from free-kicks, the whole time everything was going into the box. We defended it brilliantly until the last 10 minutes.

“To concede a free-kick like that, and to concede a goal like that, just deflates you.

“We’ve lost and we need to go again.”

The Arsenal game is likely to mark boyhood Newcastle fan Danny Graham’s home debut in a Sunderland shirt.

And Gardner believes the fans will soon be won over by the Tynesider’s talents.

Much has been made of the £5m signing’s Geordie roots, but Gardner – who grew up as a Birmingham fan yet spent his early career as an Aston Villa player – believes that simply won’t be an issue.

“Being a player is completely different to being a fan,” he said.

“Whoever you play for, you give 150 per cent. His job is with Sunderland now, and he’ll run his heart out.

“Nobody’s even talked about how good Danny Graham is, and how good a player he can be for Sunderland, and he’ll show that.”

Meanwhile, Sunderland winger Billy Knott, 20, has extended his loan spell at non-league club Woking for another month.