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Middlesbrough look to snap goal drought


O'Neill expects Gardner goals

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has challenged Craig Gardner to help end Sunderland's goalscoring woes.

Gardner, 25, reached double figures in his final season with Birmingham City, and O'Neill hopes to see him recreate that form in a Sunderland shirt.

"I feel that Craig should have ten league goals at the end of every season - regardless of the number of games that he plays," he told the Sunderland Echo.

"When I say 'regardless of the number of games that he plays', I mean of course assuming he plays upwards of 25 of course. It would be asking a bit much if he only played eight or nine times!

"But Craig's eye for goal really could be a tremendous asset for us."

"He has got a great shot, he gets into dangerous positions and he hits the ball as strongly and as truly as anyone in the Premier League."

With Gardner having played much of his football this season at right-back, in place of the injured Phil Bardsley, O'Neill concedes that he was unlikely to gain goalscoring opportunities from defence.

"Playing at full-back, he was unable to get into those forward advanced midfield positions," O'Neill said. "But now he is back in midfield, I will be looking for him to contribute some goals."

As well as allowing Gardner to move up the field Lee Cattermole believes the return of Phil Bardsley also provides a massive boost to the side, both on and off the pitch.

"Bardo's been a massive miss. It's been great to see him back and he's going to add to our team," the Sunderland captain said.

"He's a great pro. He comes in and works hard every day and he's very vocal in the dressing room. He's someone you want alongside you when you go out there on a Saturday.

"We've got a good squad here and the gaffer has got options now."

Meanwhile, Carlos Cuellar has no fears about the club's current struggles in the league. The former Aston Villa defender, 31, believes Sunderland have enough character to pull away from the bottom three.

"Now is when character comes out and I think we have big characters inside the dressing room," he said. "We are going to be all right. We can't put our heads down.

"It is a long season, this is just the beginning and we have to keep working. Confidence isn't going down. We know who we are whether we win or lose."


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