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GARDNER STEPS IT UP

Posted on 7 December 2005  - 12:00

Anthony Gardner was happy to get a game under his belt for the reserves against Portsmouth last week, but admits his defensive capabilities were not really tested in the 3-0 win.

Anthony Gardner was happy to get a game under his belt for the reserves against Portsmouth last week, but admits his defensive capabilities were not really tested in the 3-0 win.

It was a second game - he also featured for 45 minutes of the 5-0 win over Crystal Palace the week before - for the central defender who suffered a ruptured thigh muscle during the game against Aston Villa in mid-September. He performed to his usual elegant and largely unruffled standard against a young Pompey side at Havant, but against an attack lacking the cut and thrust he would expect to encounter in the Premiership.

"It is good to play and get 90 minutes under my belt," said the 25-year-old. "We had the game under control really and it was not overly exerting. It was still enough to get the legs going and get some sharpness into your game," he continued, adding that putting in a full shift does clear a small psychological barrier on the road back from lengthy injury.

"It was a little bit of a barrier, but it was a reserve game and the pace was a little bit different.

You've still got to do it properly though otherwise you are letting yourself down

"I feel a bit sharper, but I've still got a bit to go and I know that. You are not going to get the sharpness needed for the Premier League until you start getting involved and play a couple of games at the top level.

"Hopefully I will start getting involved with the boys a bit more now and start getting back up to speed."

Despite saying he has a bit to go, Anthony says he would happily declare himself fit and ready should Martin Jol give him the call for a senior return.

"Yes, I don't see why not. I feel good, although not fully up to match fitness, but I wouldn't say no. The thigh is fine and I feel no pain, the medical team and Alex Court have done well to get me back and into shape."