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Clinical Fletcher proving his worth

Sunday, 30 September 2012 - 11:09am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph

Five shots on target this season and five goals. Steven Fletcher has been the epitome of clinical at Sunderland as he secured their first league win since March.

Sunderland 1 Wigan 0

Five shots on target this season and five goals. Steven Fletcher has been the epitome of clinical at Sunderland as he secured their first league win since March.

Having struggled to get to grips with Wigan in the first-half, Fletcher pounced at the start of the second, guiding home James McClean's mis-hit shot with a first-time finish.

If there were eyebrows raised when Martin O'Neill paid Wolves pounds 12m to sign a striker who had never scored more than a dozen goals in a Premier League season, there are now only nods of approval at money well spent.

"He's starting to look like a bargain, even if we had paid pounds 35m with add ons," said O'Neill. "I thought he was brilliant. We left him isolated up front at times, but he still managed to get between two players, bring the ball down and bring others into play.

"It isn't just about his goals. The crowd have really taken to him, which helps. Maybe it's about time we got a few more players on the scoresheet though."

Sunderland secured their first win in 13 games through Fletcher, but they owed just as much to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. Wigan had two good chances early on and if Mignolet did well to save from James McCarthy with his feet, his second was incredible, somehow keeping out Arouna Kone's close-range effort.

Seb Larsson had a free-kick cleared off the line by Ivan Ramis, but Sunderland were poor until Jordi Gomez was shown a red card for a foul on Danny Rose at the start of the second half.

"I can understand why it was a red card, but I also think it was harsh" said Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, who has already got into trouble with the FA for criticising referee Michael Oliver following a defeat by Manchester United.

"His studs are showing, but he did not leave the ground. Seb Larsson made a worse tackle on Kone after that and wasn't even shown a yellow. All we want is consistency. I thought the referee had a difficult afternoon."

Martinez had a point about Howard Webb's inconsistency, there were a few baffling calls, but Gomez's tackle did look reckless.

"I thought it wasn't a red when I saw it, but I've watched it again and I don't think the referee had any alternative," added O'Neill.

"I know Roberto is frustrated, but I think that is because it changed the game.

"Minutes after the red card was shown we had taken the lead and had real impetus."

After Fletcher had scored, Stephane Sessegnon had a shot saved by Ali Al Habsi, but the home side could not find a second goal and Wigan felt their unease.

The visitors could not muster an equaliser, though, with Franco Di Santo wastefully firing their only chance well over the bar.

Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Mignolet; Gardner, Bramble, O'Shea, Rose; Johnson (Vaughan 79), Larsson, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Fletcher.

Sub: Westwood, Campbell, Kilgallon, Meyler, Saha. Booked: Fletcher, McClean.

Wigan (4-3-3): Al Habsi; Boyce, Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa; Beausejour, McCarthy, McArthur; Gomez, Kone, Maloney (Di Santo 61). Subs: Pollitt, Jones, Watson, McManaman, Boselli, Miyaichi. Booked: Di Santo, McArthur, Caldwell: Sent off: Gomes

Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorks)


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