Steven Fletcher admits he needs to be scoring more goals for Sunderland, but a bit of support will make the job easier.
Too often during his Wearside career the Scotland striker has cut a lonely figure up front, but at Villa Park on Saturday Gustavo Poyet encouraged wide players Emanuele Giaccherini and Fabio Borini to play high up the pitch. Poyet has spoken recently about how he would “love” to play Jozy Altidore alongside Fletcher given enough time to work on a partnership on the training field.
It may not happen at home to Chelsea in the Premier League tomorrow, but Fletcher welcomes the idea.
He said: “It makes it easier when you have someone next to you close by when you take the ball and you have a simple pass rather than a 20-yard pass. “I think against Hull I only had a 40-yard pass on, but it is easier when I have someone up top with me. Especially someone like Jozy, who is strong and powerful and can take all the knocks while I stay away from them and try to get in positions to score.”
Counting against Altidore is that his only Premier League goal came in a season-long loan with Hull City.
Sunderland are heavily reliant for Fletcher for goals but he has struggled this season too, only finding the net twice in a campaign disrupted by ankle and shoulder problems.
The Scot admnitted: “I think we both need to be scoring more.
“Jozy scores countless times in training everyday so I don’t think it’s bothering him at all, but I think he’s not had many chances to be honest. It’s not as if he’s missing chance after chance, he’s not getting many.
“When he does I think if he does he will put one away soon and I’m the same. I just want to put as many away as I can.”
With three wins and a draw in their last six games, Sunderland’s confidence is higher than their league position might suggest.
Although they ought to have beaten Villa at the weekend, a first clean sheet and point away from home under Poyet meant the positives outweighed the negatives.
Home games against Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur this week will test morale but ,after a 1-0 win over Manchester City in their last Stadium of Light outing, Fletcher is excited rather than intimidated.
He said: “I think we look forward to those games.
“If you don’t want to play against Chelsea and Tottenham then you shouldn’t be here.
“We’re raring to go against them. We seem to be all right when we play the top four.”
For his part, Borini was impressed with the way his partnership with Giaccherini worked at the weekend.
“We changed positions a lot during the game to make it harder for defenders to mark us,” said the on-loan striker, who hit the crossbar with a header.
“I moved out to the right and Giaccherini was on the left and we both created chances.
“We did well to create the chances but we need to be a lot more clinical in games and take those chances and finish them off.
“I think if we had done that against Aston Villa we could have been 3-0 up after the first half.
“At the break the coach told us to keep going and doing what we were doing.
“At that point we had only done half of the job and our objective was to give a solid performance for 90 minutes – and I think, for the first time we did that.”
Valentin Roberge will be standing by in case John O’Shea is unable to recover from a groin strain in time to play tomorrow.
O’Shea suffered the problem late in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Aston Villa.