Sunderland boss explains why Middlesbrough striker is finding it ‘tough’ and what knocked his confidence

Ashley Fletcher.
Ashley Fletcher.
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Chris Coleman admits Ashley Fletcher is finding it ‘tough’ at struggling Sunderland – and has pinpointed what has knocked his confidence.

The 22-year-old Middlesbrough striker switched Teesside for Wearside in January, arriving on loan until the end of the season.

Sunderland had to replace 12-goal top scorer Lewis Grabban, with Coleman swooping for Fletcher on deadline day after deals for Jon Walters and Chris Martin fell through earlier in the month.

But Fletcher has failed to score in eight appearances, with Sunderland bottom and currently League One-bound.

After a run of poor performances, Coleman dropped Fletcher for the 2-0 defeat to Preston NE, instead favouring teenage duo Josh Maja and Joel Asoro.

Coleman believes two incidents have affected his confidence; a point-blank effort saved in the 3-3 draw with Bristol City and an awful touch when clean through against Aston Villa, the ball bouncing off his knee.

“He’s found it tough coming into a struggling team,” admits Coleman.

“He’s coming into a club with a lot of uncertainty, he’s had one or two moments in games where if he hits the back of the net things could be different.

“There was a moment at Bristol where the keeper pulled off a great save, I think that affected him, here against Villa he got through and had a bad touch and that affected him.

“He’ll come through it, but with Josh and Joel they’re also young but they like playing together, especially when we play two up top.

“They’ve got a good connection, they’re big friends, so I thought it would be better to take Fletch out and give those two a start.”