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GARDNER ON RETURN

Posted on 7 April 2006  - 12:00

Anthony Gardner admits it was a tall order stepping back into the Premiership firing line last weekend.

Anthony Gardner admits it was a tall order stepping back into the Premiership firing line last weekend.

Due to the injury to Ledley King, the central defender was recalled to the side for his first start since February 5 - against Charlton at the Lane - and, before he had the chance to get his footing, Newcastle struck after 65 seconds.

It didn't get a lot better and the home side were 3-1 up inside half an hour, although the defence managed to consolidate and keep the game goalless in the second half, despite the dismissal of Michael Dawson.

"It is difficult, Premiership pace is fast and furious and, if you haven't played for a while, it is hard to get into a rhythm," said Anthony. "You've got to keep yourself as ready as you can to play games and hopefully, come Saturday, I'll be in contention to play having got back up to speed in the end at Newcastle.

"We lost and it wasn't a good performance, but we have to bounce back."

The ideal on a return to a side for a defender who has been out of action for a while is to get a good few minutes on the clock without too much goalmouth incident. Unfortunately, this was not the case on Saturday.

"They came out quickly and we conceded early which makes the game harder for you, but you have to battle through it.

"Maybe I was a little bit off the pace and it is hard to get in your stride after being out, especially as a defender, but I did feel the rhythm coming back quickly in the second half.

"My confidence is not affected, I want to play and you get on with it. Football is about getting out there and playing and I am looking forward to the next one."

The next one is Manchester City at the Lane on Saturday in a game where both sides will be seeking to respond in the right way to a defeat last time out.

"They have been a bit up and down but they do have a lot of ability in the team," added Anthony. "They struggled last week and we must make sure we dominate them at home - it is all about us really."