Five shots on target this season and five goals. Steven Fletcher has been the
epitome of clinical at
Having struggled to get to grips with
If there were eyebrows raised when Martin O’Neill paid Wolves £12m to sign a striker who had never scored more than a dozen goals in a Premier League season, there are now only nods of approval at money well spent.
“He’s starting to look like a bargain, even if we had paid £35m with add ons,” said O’Neill. “I thought he was brilliant. We left him isolated up front at times, but he still managed to get between two players, bring the ball down and bring others into play.
“It isn’t just about his goals. The crowd have really taken to him, which helps. Maybe it’s about time we got a few more players on the scoresheet though.”
Sunderland secured their first win in 13 games through Fletcher, but they owed just as much to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. Wigan had two good chances early on and if Mignolet did well to save from James McCarthy with his feet, his second was incredible, somehow keeping out Arouna Koné’s close-range effort.
Seb Larsson had a free-kick cleared off the line by Ivan Ramis, but Sunderland were poor until Jordi Gómez was shown a red card for a foul on Danny Rose at the start of the second half.
“I can understand why it was a red card, but I also think it was harsh” said Wigan manager Roberto Martínez, who has already got into trouble with the FA for criticising referee Michael Oliver following a defeat by Manchester United.
“His studs are showing, but he did not leave the ground. Seb Larsson made a worse tackle on Koné after that and wasn’t even shown a yellow. All we want is consistency. I thought the referee had a difficult afternoon.”
Martínez had a point about Howard Webb’s inconsistency, there were a few baffling calls, but Gómez’s tackle did look reckless.
“I thought it wasn’t a red when I saw it, but I’ve watched it again and I don’t think the referee had any alternative,” added O’Neill.
“I know Roberto is frustrated, but I think that is because it changed the game.
“Minutes after the red card was shown we had taken the lead and had real impetus.”
After Fletcher had scored, Stephane Sessegnon had a shot saved by Ali Al Habsi, but the home side could not find a second goal and Wigan felt their unease.
The visitors could not muster an equaliser, though, with Franco Di Santo wastefully firing their only chance well over the bar.