Nottingham Forest moved within eight points of the Championship play-off places on Wednesday night with a 2-0 home win over Rotherham, as on-loan Aston Villa midfielder Gary Gardner picked up the man of the match award for his performance.
Dexter Blackstock's lob opened the scoring two minutes before the break to put Dougie Freedman’s side on course for a fifth straight home win, before Michail Antonio’s wonder strike moments later iced the result.
It was Gardner and not one of the goalscorers who was deemed the night’s star performer, however, as the former England Under-21 international put in a fine performance in the centre of the park, keeping things ticking over with his neat passing and intelligent positioning.
He didn’t manage to net one of his now-trademark wonder strikes but 94 touches, 70 passes, 10 won headers, four interceptions, eight clearances and two blocked shots underlined his influence on the game.
Long-considered one of Villa’s most promising talents, a couple of serious ligament injuries have derailed Gardner’s career in the West Midlands but things now look to be heading in the right direction again.
After a five-month spell at Brighton and his stint at Forest, the claret and blue product is beginning to fulfil his potential in a deeper midfield role and, while Reds fans would like him to stick around long-term judging from the Twitter reaction, his current form is sure to have made an impression on Tim Sherwood.
@22Gards please sign permanently gary I'll give you a fiver?❤️— Assombalonga (@MurtaghHarry) March 18, 2015
Gardner was a fantastic loan signing, like everything about the lad. #nffc— 'Bala' (@DizzyBala) March 18, 2015
It's actually depressing we can't sign @22Gards at the end of his loan spell unbelievable player runs the midfield top class again— Daniel Campion (@NFFCDan) March 18, 2015
NFFC (@TheFootLong) March 18, 2015
I'm getting too attached to Gary Gardner! I imagine this is sort of how it'd feel to start falling in love with someone else's wife #nffc— gulliver nffc (@s_d_j_h) March 18, 2015
It'll be such a massive loss if @22Gards doesn't sign for us next year considering how much better our team has looked with him— Ellis Prince (@Ellis_Prince) March 18, 2015
Gary Gardner is just brilliant— Sam Stewart (@Sam_Stewart15) March 18, 2015