Sunderland striker Fletcher still in with Manchester City chance

Sunderland's Vito Mannone celebrates with Craig Gardner and Steven Fletcher.
Sunderland's Vito Mannone celebrates with Craig Gardner and Steven Fletcher.
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STEVEN FLETCHER still has a chance of featuring at Wembley, despite Sunderland opting not to risk the striker against Arsenal.

Fletcher has suffered no adverse reactions in his comeback since returning to training last Wednesday after almost three weeks on the treatment table with an Achilles injury.

The Scotland international was in contention for a place among the substitutes at the Emirates on Saturday, before Sunderland opted not to risk the 26-year-old, who has struggled to hit the heights of his maiden season on Wearside.

But Fletcher is in Gus Poyet’s thinking for Sunday’s Capital One Cup final, as the Sunderland boss ponders changes against Manchester City after the 4-1 rout against Arsenal.

Poyet told the Echo: “If he had been on the bench and he could have played 20 minutes, then we would have put him in.

“But I didn’t want to have that dilemma of making him play more than he should.

“You can always get another injury as the main striker.

“He trained with us on Saturday, and he’s a possibility for the team at the weekend.”

Despite Poyet insisting at the weekend that no-one’s place was safe in the starting XI at Wembley, the problem up front is his chief dilemma.

Last season’s top scorer Fletcher has netted just three times in this campaign, while Jozy Altidore can boast only one league goal to his name and was hauled off at half-time against the Gunners.

Emanuele Giaccherini replaced Altidore – in a change which saw Fabio Borini move into the central role – and made his claims for a starting spot at Wembley after netting Sunderland’s consolation goal.

And with goal difference potentially a factor in the relegation battle, Poyet says that strike – Giaccherini’s first since September – could be crucial.

“It’s been difficult for Giacchy,” added Poyet.

“He’s one of those players that you try to give minutes to when you can. For different reasons, I haven’t been able to.

“But he’s always been knocking on the door. He had 45 minutes at Arsenal and it probably wasn’t the easiest.

“But it was a great finish. Who knows, that could be a goal which saves us from relegation.”