Steven Fletcher is ready to fire to Sunderland to Premier League safety after ending a goal drought lasting almost six months with a hat-trick last weekend.
The 28-year-old had not scored since the Black Cats’ win over Crystal Palace in November, but he halted that depressing sequence in devastating fashion with three goals for Scotland in their Euro 2016 qualifier against Gibraltar.
Scotland’s first treble since 1969 also provided Fletcher with his first international goals since 2009 and lifted the striker’s confidence as Sunderland enter a crucial period.
They currently lie one point and one place above the relegation zone, but Fletcher has admitted that new head coach Dick Advocaat, who has been appointed until the end of the season, has already made an impact.
Indeed, the Scottish international was one of Sunderland’s better performers in Advocaat’s first game in charge – the 1-0 loss at West Ham.
Now inspired by that international hat-trick, Fletcher looks set to make his presence felt on the scoresheet against a Newcastle side who don’t appear to have much to play for apart from pride. Marooned in mid-table, they look safe from relegation and are well off the chase for European places.
They have lost their last three Premier League games and their last two away fixtures, conceding a total of eight goals in those away matches.
Moreover, Sunderland have won the last four Tyne-Wear derbies and Fletcher scored in the corresponding match last season when the Black Cats triumphed 2-1. No wonder he is looking forward to Sunday’s clash.
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