Sunderland’s Fletcher eyes goal boost to kick-start confidence

Sunderland's Steven Fletcher.
Sunderland's Steven Fletcher.
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STEVEN FLETCHER admits he needs the tonic of a first Sunderland goal since October’s Wear-Tyne derby triumph.

Last season’s top scorer has drawn a blank in each of his last five Sunderland starts and, with fellow frontman Jozy Altidore beginning to hit form, the Scotland international’s place has come under scrutiny.

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet is desperate for Fletcher to rediscover the predatory form he produced in his maiden campaign on Wearside, with only Crystal Palace and Cardiff scoring fewer top-flight goals than the bottom-of-the-league Black Cats.

And Fletcher hopes he can earn a much-welcome confidence boost by ending his drought in Saturday’s crunch trip to fellow strugglers West Ham.

Fletcher told the Echo: “For all strikers, if you’ve not had a goal in a while...

“I think my last was against Newcastle, so if I can get off the mark on Saturday it’ll be good.

“Confidence is a big thing, definitely.

“It’ll come. We’re not down yet. We know we’ve been playing well, we just need to get a result and if we can pick up one hopefully that’ll spur us on to a few more.”

Poyet started Fletcher and Altidore together for the first time in six games in last weekend’s defeat to Spurs, albeit the latter was deployed in a deeper role, rather than in an orthodox 4-4-2.

Altidore was again Sunderland’s chief goal threat after netting his first Premier League goal in red and white during the previous encounter against Chelsea.

Fletcher said: “He’s a handful, Jozy. He’s proving that in training every day and when he’s played.

“He’s big on confidence, if he’s playing well he’s unstoppable. You can see that in training and his confidence is high just now.

“I wouldn’t like to defend against him!”

Fletcher scored in last season’s 1-1 draw at Upton Park before ex-Newcastle skipper Kevin Nolan, suspended for Saturday’s game, grabbed a last-minute equaliser for the Hammers.

But the stakes are much higher this time around.

Sunderland need a first away win of the campaign to get back in contention with the pack of teams above them, while only goal difference separates West Ham from the bottom three.

“We did well there last season,” added Fletcher. “We played well and deserved to come away with the three points.

“Hopefully we can do that this week.

“We know what we need to do and obviously they’ll think the same down their end.

“There’s no mental block away from home. We played well at Aston Villa and were unlucky not to claim the three points. We had a few chances, with (Emanuele) Giaccherini’s chance.

“We created chances and we’re scoring as well, as you saw against Chelsea.

“So we just need to get a few things right and if we do that we’ll be fine.

“Things just aren’t going our way, but we’ll get there.

“We’re positive, the boys are positive. They believe we can get out of it.

“We were all disappointed after Spurs, but we’ve just had to come back in and start again this week. We know we’ve got a big opportunity going down to West Ham.”