CRAIG Gardner says Sunderland will be on a revenge mission tomorrow when Arsenal come to town for the second time in a week.
The Gunners shot down the Black Cats in the league last Saturday with a last-minute strike from goalscoring legend Thierry Henry.
But far from being overawed by their illustrious opponents, Gardner says he and his team-mates will be looking to set the record straight tomorrow after feeling they were worthy of at least one Premier League point against Arsene Wenger’s men.
He said: “Arsenal are one of the biggest names in the English game and their record over the years speaks for itself but we felt we didn’t deserve to lose last week’s game.
“We worked so hard as a team during the game. We created chances and to lose it like we did, in the very last minute, was unfortunate.
“We thought we deserved at least a draw and to be honest, after taking the lead with just 20 minutes to go, we might easily have won it.
“It was horrible in the dressing room afterwards – to have worked so hard and to lose to a last-minute goal was a killer.”
The Brummie midfielder though insists that Sunderland are far from downcast after the first home defeat in Martin O’Neill’s brief reign and he expects no hangover when the two teams meet again tomorrow in the FA Cup fourth round.
He said: “It was a real disappointment last week but the lads have bounced back very quickly and we’re up for the cup game this weekend. We know where we are in the league, we’re still in the cup and it’s still in our hands to have a good cup run and look to aim for a place in the top eight at the end of the season.”
Gardner also believes that the fact that the Wearsiders have had a week in which to recharge their batteries will stand them in good stead.
“It’s going to be a tough tie but we’re coming at it differently this time – we won’t have played Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday.
“In contrast, it will be a test of their stamina this time, because they’ve had a very tough game in Milan midweek and that will inevitably have some sort of effect.
“We certainly felt it in the closing stages of the game against them last Saturday. The first tie in the FA Cup against Middlesbrough was tough, the replay was even more so, especially after it went to extra time and I think it made it much harder for us late on against Arsenal.
“The game this weekend though we are looking forward to. It should be a very good atmosphere, especially with it being the cup, and the fans’ backing recently has been fantastic.
“We just need to give them something to enjoy and to feed off and for us to take the usual encouragement that we do from their support.”