O’Neill hails Sunderland matchwinner Fletcher

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MARTIN O’Neill was quick to hail star striker Steven Fletcher for scoring the goal which eased Sunderland’s relegation worries over the Christmas programme, writes Graeme Anderson.

The ex-Wolves striker scored the only goal against Southampton yesterday to ensure Sunderland would not drop into the bottom three this weekend or next.

And the Black Cats boss was quick to recognise the importance of the Scotland international to the club’s fortunes this season.

“He has been fantastic for us,” said O’Neill. “He really has.

“His contribution to the club this season has been immense.

“It’s not just that he scores a goal or two for us, it’s the fact that he scores important ones too.”

Even this early in the season, Southampton v Sunderland was undoubtedly a six-pointer – and O’Neill was quick to acknowledge the value of the three points.

“Today’s win has given us a great boost,” he nodded.

“It has given us the three points we’ve been battling ever so hard for and often not got.

“And it puts us in great spirits for the games coming up – both ourselves, and I’m sure the fans too.

“The support we had at St Mary’s was great and the atmosphere against Man City on Boxing Day will be akin to that of New Year’s Day last year when we managed to beat City in the last minute.

“The same result would do very nicely.

“But I have a feeling it might not work out that way!”

“The main thing is that we go into the City game on the back of a win.

“We have been able to win two games out of three and that is good.

“We have had a tough old season, right from the start and that win against Southampton, just before Christmas, will really help us ahead of three massive games before our FA Cup tie.”

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