| -1.1°C Belfast

Gardner hails galvanising goal


Craig Gardner celebrates his winner over Aston Villa on Saturday

Craig Gardner celebrates his winner over Aston Villa on Saturday

Craig Gardner celebrates his winner over Aston Villa on Saturday

Craig Gardner believes West Brom's derby win over Aston Villa has reunited the club and he challenged the Baggies to pull away from danger.

The midfielder scored his first goal for Albion in the 1-0 victory at the Hawthorns on Saturday, just their second win in 10 Barclays Premier League games.

It eased the pressure on head coach Alan Irvine after fans had started calling for the axe and lifted the Baggies to 14th in the table.

"We knew if we won the local derby it would catapult us up the league, get everyone back on side, get the fans back on side, because we need the fans, we need everyone at the club," said Gardner, who started his career at Villa.

"We got the whole team, the whole club back together.

"This win can have a really galvanising effect, definitely. The fans, seeing the work rate we are putting in, seeing we are not hiding

"It is a platform to build on. It's four points from two games and we can really push on now."

Gardner celebrated his goal with Irvine and also handed his shirt to young fan Rui Roper at the end of the game.

He said: "It was nice to give a little bit back, I'm a fan myself. I've been in that position that little lad has been in. It's nice, he'll remember that for the rest of his life. He's going to go home, probably sleep with the shirt on, tell his friends and family.

"I do know the kid, he was in my eye line. It was going to go to a kid and lucky enough I knew him. I know his dad."

Defeat ended Villa's five-game unbeaten run and they will have to deal with suspensions for Kieran Richardson - after he was sent off - and Alan Hutton and Tom Cleverley after they received their fifth bookings of the season.

Fabian Delph and Ron Vlaar returned from injury but boss Paul Lambert knows they need more depth.

He said: "I don't think we have the strongest (squad depth), but we've got Fabian back and (Philippe) Senderos is close but I think you are always trying to improve the quality and squad size."

Vlaar returned as a late substitute after a thigh problem but Lambert insisted his skipper is not guaranteed a place after the form of Jores Okore and Ciaran Clark.

He said: "The really pleasing thing is that Okore had 14 months out and is coming in like this, and Ciaran looks outstanding.

"I think he has always been up and down but playing the way he is is the best I've seen him. They look good as a pair, they have a good understanding. Sometimes you stumble on things and these two lads have been absolutely fantastic. Ron will see himself the two lads have been great, but it is good to have Ron back and pushing again."