Gardner: No excuses for Cats

South Africa coach Gordon Igesund has failed to persuade Everton

midfielder Steven Pienaar to change his mind about retiring from

international football.

Pienaar made a shock decision in October to quit playing for

Bafana Bafana, just three months before the Africa Cup of Nations,

and the national team has been rocked by the loss of its captain

and playmaker.

The 30-year-old admitted he was struggling to cope with the

physical demands of combining his club career with international

fixtures and Igesund was unable to convince Pienaar to make a

U-turn.

Igesund, who met with Pienaar in England last month, said he is

“totally retired from international football” and will “get on with

his life at his club.”

Pienaar, who is having his second spell at Goodison Park, has

been a key player for the Toffees this season as they have made a

strong start to the Premier League campaign.

South Africa will prepare for the tournament with friendlies

against Malawi, Norway and Algeria before their opening match

against debutant Cape Verde on 19 January.

The Robins dominated the early chances at Whaddon Road with

Steve Elliott and Kaid Mohamed going close before Shaun Harrad

flicked home a low Jermaine McGlashan cross for the 16th-minute

opener.

Jake Taylor glanced a header wide for Cheltenham but Hereford

levelled with their first attack of the game on 20 minutes. Josh

O’Keefe blasted home from 10 yards after his initial header had

been palmed away by Robins keeper Scott Brown.

Mohamed was twice denied by Bulls keeper James Bittner after the

break while Will Evans went close to snatching victory for the

visitors.

“We didn’t deserve to lose but didn’t do enough to win the

game,” Robins boss Yates admitted.

“I thought we started really well. We moved it quickly and we

moved it with a purpose but once they scored we didn’t do it

enough. They sat deep and made it difficult for us.

“In the second half, we didn’t really play with enough quality,

enough tempo or pace to our game to create enough chances. We

weren’t as good as we wanted to be but we were the team doing all

the pressing.

“We were trying to make things happen. They worked really hard

and all credit to them for that.

“No-one in our dressing room thought it was going to be easy but

it’s disappointing because we didn’t apply ourselves. They played

well but we can play better and we need to do that in the

replay.

“We are a disappointed dressing room and they are doing a lap of

honour but we are still in it.”

Carroll, who is currently on a season-long loan at West Ham from

Liverpool and facing an eight-week lay-off due to a knee injury,

was with team-mates in Dublin for a weekend Christmas party after

the Hammers beat Chelsea 3-1 on Saturday.

The 23-year-old denies any wrongdoing.

A spokesman for the Garda press office in Dublin said officers

received a report of an incident at 2.30am on Monday.

A press photographer claimed he had been assaulted in the

capital’s main shopping district, Grafton Street.

Officers at the city’s Pearse Street station are investigating

the incident.

It is understood members of the West Ham football team were

spoken to by gardai following reports of an assault.

No arrests were made, the Garda spokesman said.

Sunderland have claimed just two wins in 22 Premier League games

and Sunday’s 2-1 loss at Norwich leaves them just one point above

the bottom three.

Gardner, who scored at Carrow Road, admits the team have spoken

in length about the reasons for Sunderland’s slide towards a

relegation fight.

But the midfielder knows the Black Cats must put their words

into action before their plight worsens.

He said: “We can’t afford to keep talking after games about what

we have to do.

“We have to start going out there and doing it. There’s no

excuses for us anymore. We can’t just keep saying things will be

fine – we have to make them fine.

“We know we can do it, our second-half performance against

Norwich showed that. We know if we play like that, then we’ll start

winning.”

Gardner hopes the side can start their revival with a win over

Chelsea at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

“We are desperate for a win. We need to start pushing on,” he

said.

“Chelsea will be tough but if we can take that second-half

performance into Saturday’s game, we can win.

“We’re slowly starting to find our form. The problem is we need

to find it quickly.”