O'Neill leaves door open for fit-again Gordon at Sunderland

Black Cats boss is happy for the Scottish shot-stopper to remain at the Stadium of Light after an injury-hit spell at Wearside but is disappointed with a draw against Bolton
Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill raised the prospect that Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon could remain at the Stadium of Light following the 2-2 draw with relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers.

O’Neill sang the 29-year-old Gordon’s praised after the former Hearts skipper helped his side earn a point against a battling Bolton, making his first senior appearance since February 2011.

Gordon’s contract with Sunderland expires this summer but the Ulsterman insisted that no decisions had been made over his future after he made an impressive return to first-team duties following a serious knee injury.

“Today he did very, very well but I couldn’t shed any light on things at this moment,” O’Neill told reporters.

“His contract is up. The most important thing for him was to be fit and at least then it would get him into a really decent position in terms of where he might go or what his future might hold.

“The door was never closed, I talked to Craig some weeks ago and the most important issue at that time was for him to re-gain full fitness. He has worked exceptionally hard, he has a program he is working on with the fitness coaches that he is adhering to and he is feeling pretty good.”

Gordon reminded Sunderland supporters of his penalty-box prowess that persuaded the club to pay Hearts a then British-record £9 million for a goalkeeper in 2007.

“I was very pleased with him. We had decided some time ago that I wanted an opportunity to give him a game. He is feeling pretty well fit now which is important,” O’Neill added.

“I have been delighted with Simon Mignolet who has been brilliant since he came in on New Year’s Day but I had a chat with all three goalkeepers and I just wanted to give Craig a game to see if he had regained that fitness after being out for such a long time. He did very well.

“I wanted him to play is because the best way for me to get some kind of assessment of him is to play him in a big game rather just practice matches behind closed doors and I thought he did very well today.

“We have certainly on the goalkeeping front we look as though we have three very capable goalkeepers in Craig, Simon and Kieran (Westwood).”

Whilst he was pleased with Gordon’s efforts, O’Neill was unhappy with his team’s failure to secure all three points as Kevin Davies' double cancelled out goals from Nicklas Bendtner and James McClean.

“I am disappointed we did not go on to win the game when we got in front but Bolton caused us plenty if problems all afternoon,” he continued.

“They outmuscled us in the first 15, 20 minutes of the game. They played stronger than we did and when the goal came they just about deserved it.

“The equaliser game us a bit more confidence after barren spell in front of goal and when we scored again it gave me hope we would go on to win it but it was not to be.

“It would have been great for us to have won because we would have gone into eighth position in the league but I am not sure we are an eighth-in-the-table team. We are where we are. It was frustrating not to win the game but we have work to do. That is not a problem.”

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