Ashley Fletcher reacts after scoring first Sunderland goal in Derby County demolition

Before the game had even kicked off, Ashley Fletcher spotted an old friend on the scoresheet and was given a boost.

Saturday, 31st March 2018, 11:07 am
Updated Saturday, 31st March 2018, 11:10 am
Fletcher celebrates his first Sunderland goal

Fletcher built his reputation during a highly successful loan spell at Barnsley, where he played alongside the talented Bristol City midfielder Josh Brownhill.

It was Brownhill who pulled Sunderland back from the brink, a dramatic equaliser in the 91st minute at Oakwell cutting the gap to a just about surmountable six points on Saturday evening.

The Black Cats kicked off at Pride Park down but not quite out.

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A sign, perhaps?

“We were following the Barnsley game a little bit and it was my mate, Josh Brownhill who I was with at Barnsley who scored the Bristol goal," Fletcher said.

"I'd texted him before the game.

“Psychologically it would have been massive if Barnsley had been able to win that game but we were just focussing on ourselves. We knew we needed a performance.”

And how.

Fletcher had been in the game right from the first kick, just failing to control a through ball from Aiden McGeady.

Sunderland created a host of opportunities and when Fletcher was presented with another chance, he took it emphatically.

There could have been more, the striker missing a good chance on the stroke of half-time and hitting the post with a fine individual effort midway through the second period.

Nevertheless, the 22-year-old is up and running and hopes it can be the spark for a fine run-in.

He said: “I had a half-chance in the first minute and that made me feel I was going to get chances in this game so when the second one came I was determined to put it away. I could have had a few more. It didn't matter in the end but I want to be scoring goals.

“It was a big weight off my shoulders. It's been a long time coming. Things haven't really fallen for me but the lads put in a huge performance and I'm delighted to get a goal.

“I said from the start once I got my first one people would see a different kind of player. In a way I oozed that confidence once I got that first one. I know what kind of player I can be.

“It's a weight off my shoulders so hopefully I can now take that momentum into the next few games.

“I had a chance straight after my goal when the defender took it off me and put it wide and I hit the post (in the second half). It's those fine margins where I could have been walking away with a hat-trick."