Steven Fletcher 'worth every penny' for Sunderland

Wigan Athletic 2 Sunderland 2

Fears that Sunderland would be drawn into a relegation fight have eased with a run of five wins in eight Premier League matches, but their midfielder Sebastian Larsson warned that Martin O'Neill's team cannot slip back into old habits and expect £12m striker Steven Fletcher to keep them safe.

The Scotland international, signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers last summer, hit five goals in his first four Premier League appearances for his new club but no other Sunderland player scored until Adam Johnson struck at Everton in November.

When Fletcher's goals dried up, Sunderland suffered a run of only one win in 10 matches, slipping into the bottom three last month. But Fletcher found his touch again against Reading in their next match and has scored in three of those five wins, culminating in two during Saturday's 3-2 win at the DW Stadium that took his tally to 10 for the season.

"They were two great finishes, two instinctive finishes," Larsson said. "It can only help us if he's scoring. At the same time, we relied way too much on him earlier in the season. Steven's overall play, the way he can hold the ball up and his link play are very important. We've scored a few more goals as a team recently and that's what we have to do, so that teams are not worrying about just him."

Larsson, Johnson and Stéphane Sessègnon have a modest eight Premier League goals between them this season. Little wonder O'Neill believes the money he spent on Fletcher – only just short of the club record – was "worth every penny".

O'Neill said: "We've relied on him in the first couple of months when he was the only player scoring a goal for us. He's really top-class, a top-class centre-forward, not just in the goals he's got but the way he brings others into play. Signing him seemed a long, drawn-out affair but I'm delighted I stuck with it."

Wigan Athletic, who had gone ahead through a David Vaughan own goal, responded well in the second half, building on a superb performance by Shaun Maloney, who drew the best save of the match from Simon Mignolet and provided the cross from which Angelo Henriquez, the 18-year-old Chilean striker on loan from Manchester United, headed his first goal under Roberto Martinez.

But Sunderland had an outstanding newcomer of their own in the 22-year-old former France Under-21 midfielder Alfred N'Diaye and when Fletcher's goals, added to Craig Gardner's penalty, put them 3-1 up the odds were against Wigan. Martinez believes his side's defensive shortcomings, with Antolin Alcaraz and Ivan Ramis lost to long-term injury, need to be addressed in the January window if Wigan – now in the bottom three – are to avoid the need for more late-season escapology.

"We need to find a solution and January is a good month to rectify that," Martinez said. "But whoever we bring in will have to have Premier League experience because it is difficult for a foreign player to come in at this stage and pick up the tempo quick enough to make an impact."

premier league top talismen

Goals: Wigan Vaughan og 5, Henriquez 79. Sunderland Gardner pen 17, Fletcher 20, 42. Substitutions: Wig Espinoza 6 (Stam, h-t), Henriquez (Boyce, 72), Boselli (Di Santo, 77). Sun McClean (Johnson, 76), Bardsley (Sessè-gnon, 85), Elmohamady (Vaughan, 90+3). Bookings: Wig Boyce, Beausejour, Henriquez. Sun Colback, Bramble. Man of match Fletcher. Match rating 8/10. Possession: Wig 71%. Sund 29%. Attempts on target: Wig 6. Sund 5. Referee A Taylor (Greater Manchester). Att 19,219.

News
peopleJonathan Ross has got a left-field suggestion to replace Clarkson
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss