STEVEN Fletcher’s fitness will be assessed again today, but Sunderland’s top scorer remains a major doubt to face Reading.
Fletcher missed Saturday’s defeat to Chelsea with the ankle injury he sustained at Norwich City nine days ago and although the Scotland international is making progress, Martin O’Neill is unlikely to risk the striker in tonight’s crunch clash.
The 25-year-old participated in some light training yesterday, away from the rest of the Sunderland squad, and he will do likewise again today.
But O’Neill admits he is not confident about Fletcher’s chances of facing second bottom Reading, with Connor Wickham set to continue at the peak of Sunderland’s attack.
O’Neill told the Echo: “Fletcher’s coming on a bit and he’s less sore than he was. But I wouldn’t be sure about tonight.
“He did a little bit of training yesterday with the physios and there’ll be a little bit again today. Obviously if Fletcher was fit, he’d give us a boost.
“But if it was going to cause irreparable damage, then it’s not something you’d want to do.”
O’Neill’s main selection dilemma tonight will be whether to gamble on playing on-loan Spurs left-back Danny Rose in central midfield.
The Sunderland manager has been contemplating using Rose in that role for several weeks and moved the 22-year-old into the middle of the park for the final 20 minutes against Chelsea, with Jack Colback taking his spot at left-back.
O’Neill was coy about Rose yesterday, but admits that the England Under-21 international is capable of playing in several positions.
“I think Danny Rose is an all-round player,” said O’Neill.
“He says himself that his confidence here is greater now than when he started with us.
“He feels as if he is capable of doing more for the team, which I always thought he was.
“I thought he sometimes kept that light under a bushel, now he’s really progressing and it’s great to see.
“He knows the crowd are very much with him and I believe in time he is capable of playing in a number of positions.”