SAFC v Reading

MON's Fletcher fanfare

by Stuart Vose

Boss hails striker's comeback.

Martin O’Neill paid fulsome tribute to “magnificent” Steven Fletcher after the striker beat an injury to star against Reading.

Fletcher missed the game against Chelsea after picking up a knock but declared himself fit for the clash with Royals – marking his comeback with a goal.

The Scot’s seventh strike of the season was definitely special – a deft back-heeled finish from Danny Rose’s low cross.

And Sunderland’s leading scorer delighted his manager, who admitted he didn’t think the frontman’s level of fitness would see him through the entire match.

"Steven was magnificent,” said O’Neill, who saw James McClean and Stephane Sessegnon join Fletcher on the scoresheet in a 3-0 win.

“He has had no training whatsoever this week and for him to start the game for us was great, but to complete the game was even better – I wasn’t expecting him to do that!

“I thought he may last until half-time. He’s a fine player and he is so important for us.

“I wonder where we’d be without his goals at this point. He’s done exceptionally well and I’m delighted with him.”

Fletcher’s status was unknown until immediately prior to the game and O’Neill admitted his inclusion may have given Sunderland some further momentum.

“Having Steven back in the side gave the dressing room a big boost,” he explained.

“He’s a popular player, quiet but popular with the team – he’ll be even more popular tonight.”