STEVEN FLETCHER believes Sunderland have nipped any building pressure in the bud by moving out of the Premier League relegation zone.
The manner of Sunderland’s error-strewn back-to-back defeats to Southampton and Arsenal had prompted intense scrutiny of the Black Cats on the terraces, particularly after Gus Poyet’s side descended into the bottom three.
But after Fletcher’s double helped to secure a first away win of the campaign at Crystal Palace on Monday night, the picture for 15th placed Sunderland looks healthier with a two-point buffer now separating them from the drop zone.
Top scorer Fletcher says it was crucial that Sunderland stopped the rot at Selhurst Park, and insists the Wearsiders need to build on that momentum when Everton visit the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
“There probably was a little bit pressure on us before Palace, although you can’t let that affect you,” said Fletcher.
“We had to show a bit of character to the fans that we’re not going to sit back and take defeats like that and I think we did that.
“It’s a hard league and you need to give 100 per cent every game. We did that at Palace, because it’s a hard place to go. Every game for us is massive, especially the next one coming up as well.
“We’ve got a bit of momentum going so hopefully we can take that into the weekend.”
Fletcher netted his third of the campaign at Palace with a goal that was almost a carbon copy of the one he netted at Selhurst Park last season.
After Jordi Gomez regained the advantage following Wes Brown’s own goal, Fletcher then doubled his tally in stoppage time with a nonchalant flick into the far corner.
“I think my first one was similar to the last one I scored at Palace, so I was happy with it,” said the 27-year-old, yesterday named in the Scotland squad for the Euro 2016 qualifier against Ireland and the friendly against England.
“Wes’ own goal was just a fluke, but we showed character to come back from that.
“They had a five or 10 minutes spell when they were on top of us, but we managed to ride that and Jordi got us a great goal.
“And then at the end, we just broke on when they were pushing to get the goal.”
The downside at Selhurst Park was a shoulder injury for left-back Patrick van Aanholt, which is likely to keep the Dutch international sidelined for several weeks.
But Fletcher believes that blow was cushioned by the performance of debutant Anthony Reveillere after the former France international signed a short-term deal with Sunderland last month.
Fletcher added: “Pat has done well for us since he’s come in.
“But Anthony came in and I thought he was outstanding to be honest, especially for his first game.
“If he can play there while Pat is out, it’s not a bad replacement.
“He’s very experienced, has played in a lot of teams, so we’re happy we’ve got him. He’s a good asset.”