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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific