MK Dons v Sunderland

Gardner up for the cup

by Kate Smith

Midfielder happy to be in next round draw.

Craig Gardner’s stunning free kick was the turning point in Sunderland’s Capital One Cup victory over MK Dons.

The former Birmingham City star fired the Black Cats into the lead in the second half as he struck the ball sublimely to leave goalkeeper Ian McLoughlin standing.

The goal came after Sunderland were reduced to 10 men, following Lee Cattermole’s dismissal, and stand-in skipper Gardner stepped up to the plate to pull his side back into the game, before James McClean nabbed a second to seal the win.

After the game, Gardner revealed: “We went into the game knowing we wanted to get through to the next round of the competition.

“Even after going down to 10 men we picked ourselves up and we were determined we weren’t going to get knocked out of the cup.

I didn’t know for sure if it was going to go in but Iknew if I hit it on target it stood a good chance.

- Craig Gardner

“The goal came at just the right time and then James [McClean] sealed it with a second to give us a comfortable night.”

The goal was not too dissimilar to Gardner’s wonder strike at the DW Stadium in the 4-1 victory over Wigan earlier this year.

When asked if he fancied his chances at putting away his now trademark shot, the Black Cats star remained coy.

“I didn’t know for sure if it was going to go in.” Gardner said.

“But I knew if I hit it on target it stood a good a chance. The keeper didn’t move – he might even have whiplash after watching it go in,” he joked.

Over 2,500 Sunderland fans made the 400 mile round trip to Milton Keynes for the cup tie and Gardner admitted that they played a key part in the team’s victory.

“The fans were unbelievable.

"For them to travel all that way in such bad weather shows what spirit they’ve got and how determined they were to see us to win – it makes us just as determined.”