Reading v SAFC

Practice makes perfect for Craig

by Stuart Vose

Midfielder putting in training-ground graft.

Craig Gardner says practice is most definitely the way forward as he continues to play an increasing role for the club at set pieces.

He has been sharing free-kick duty with Seb Larsson and is also now the Black Cats’ penalty taker, putting away two in his last three games.

He netted a superb spot-kick against Reading in Sunderland’s last outing and is constantly putting in extra time with senior keepers Simon Mignolet and Keiren Westwood to hone his technique.

“I’m always practicing penalties and free-kicks in training,” revealed the midfielder, who has been filling in at right back of late and is averaging a goal every four and a half games this season.

“I work a lot with Simon and Keiren, and when I’m facing them I tell them where I’m going to put the ball.

“If they know where I’m going to shoot and I still score, then I know it’s going to be hard for an opposition keeper to make a save on the Saturday.”

Gardner has already scored six goals this season – double last term’s tally.

The Brummie netted 10 times whilst with Birmingham in 2010-11 and has often displayed a penchant for the spectacular.

But he’s now on duty from the penalty spot too having had to endure a long wait for a spot-kick.

The opportunity duly arrived against Wigan last month before Gardner was called upon again at the Madejski Stadium last weekend.

He added: “We didn’t have a penalty for ages and have now had two in three games.

“Hopefully we will get a few more as the season goes on.”