Shaun Gardner has been praised by manager Andy Coyles, with the striker recently having celebrated his 100th appearance for Penrith AFC.

Gardner, who was the Bonny Blues’ assistant manager during Jim Nichols’ time in charge of the club, and then also took caretaker charge in 2017 after Nichols’ resignation, reached the milestone in Penrith’s 4-1 loss at Dunston UTS on February 9.

Since then, he scored a brace of penalties in last Wednesday’s Cumberland Cup quarter-final 3-2 success over Whitehaven AFC, before he was also in the starting line-up in their 2-1 defeat at Whickham on Saturday in Northern League Division One.

At the Glebe Sports Ground, midfielder Adam Main broke the deadlock but Whickham hit back through Max Cowburn and a late Andrew Bulford winner.

At the start of 2018, Gardner left the Frenchfield Park outfit but he re-joined the club later last year.

Coyles said: "Congratulations to him, he has been great since he came back.

"I’m very thankful to Shaun because he didn’t have to come back when it was a tough, tough time at the club, but he did."

Asked if Gardner was currently playing as well as he had seen during his time at the club, Coyles added: "I think so, yeah.

"But I think he is just getting his match fitness back. He struggled against Whitehaven with a hamstring injury but, to be fair to him, he played through it.

"Overall, he has contributed to the team very well so far this season.

"I think he will get fitter as the season progresses and hopefully, if he can shake off this hamstring injury, he’ll be alright."

Whitehaven-born Coyles, meanwhile, is hoping Penrith will meet Bransty Rangers in the Cumberland Cup semi-final.

With Carlisle United and Coyles’ Bonny Blues the two sides guaranteed places in the last four, Bransty will play Netherall, while Keswick host Wigton Harriers in the two outstanding quarter-final clashes this Saturday.

"I’m hoping Bransty get through," said Coyles who works at Northumbria University and is also head coach of England men’s university’s team. “That’s where it all started for me as an Under-9.

"I have really close ties with them, as I did with Whitehaven in terms of [that was] where I played my senior football before I went to Workington."

This Saturday, Penrith face a tough test as they welcome fifth-placed Stockton Town to Frenchfield Park.