Craig Gardner issues rallying cry to Sunderland ahead of nightmare run of fixtures

Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United on the horizon for struggling Black Cats

The Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner has issued a rallying cry to his team-mates to save their season from developing into another relegation fight ahead of a daunting run of five games that includes the Premier League's top three.

Sunderland moved to within a point of the drop zone following their defeat to Norwich on Sunday, despite a reinvigorated second-half display. Gardner's goal was the catalyst for a fightback that Martin O'Neill hopes will be the turning point in their disappointing campaign. They have won just twice in their last 22 Premier League games and face Chelsea at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United a week on December 15 and then face champions Manchester City on Boxing Day.

Sunderland spent £22m during the summer to sign Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson and are unlikely to be major players when the transfer window opens next month.

O'Neill knows he must get more from the personnel at his disposal and Gardner said: "We need to stand up and be counted and take our chances. We can't keep doing this after games, saying, 'It'll come, it'll come'. We need to make it come.

"We're frustrated but we have a tough game coming up against Chelsea now and we need to take hold of games from the start, not just from the start of the second half. We've just got to take our chances because it's taking us a while to get into games.

"We started off slowly again against Norwich and found ourselves two goals down. Not many teams play Norwich off the park at home, which is what we did in the second half. It's there, we can do it but we need to do it from start to finish. We have to do it now, pick ourselves up and have to do it. There's no excuses any more. We know we can do it. If we play like that second half from start to finish, then we'll win games comfortably. That's what we need to do.

"I can't explain it. It's like it took the goal to really lift us but we can't do that. We need to be lifted from the start. We're going into games that we need to win and making it hard for ourselves. In the second half at Norwich we deserved to win the game. That's maybe the sign of a side that is finding it slowly, but surely, although we need to find it quickly."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent