Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher has backed referee Robert Madley’s decision to award the game-changing penalty in the Wear-Tyne derby.
For the second successive meeting between the two North East neighbours, Sunderland broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time, but, unlike Jermain Defoe’s stunner in April’s corresponding fixture, yesterday’s opener was dogged by controversy.
Newcastle boss Steve McClaren claimed it was “never a penalty” after Madley adjudged Magpies skipper Fabricio Coloccini to have fouled Fletcher, which led to the visitors being hit by a double whammy of a spot-kick and a red card.
But Fletcher said: “It’s a free-kick anywhere else, so why not a penalty?
“I was just looking at the ball, so I didn’t know he was coming.
“When you’re not expecting it, it’s going to be a harder hit.
It’s a free-kick anywhere else, so why not a penalty?Steven Fletcher
“He knocked me off. I think he just tried to stop me getting to the ball.
“The penalty changed the game with them being down to 10 and we were able to put them on the back foot in the second half, and we managed to capitalise on it.
“I think we were able to relax a bit more after the second goal.
“We started passing it, keeping it, and then got the third.”
It was Fletcher who netted that third goal as he steered home Younes Kaboul’s tremendous cross after the centre-half had started the move with a tackle midway inside his own half.
That sealed a pivotal win for a Sunderland side whose plight at the bottom of the table had shown in an anxious start to the game, when Newcastle were able to dominate.
“It was nice to get on the scoresheet,” added Fletcher.
“When I saw big Younes coming up, I wasn’t that confident!
“But it was a fantastic ball, and I just managed to put it away.
“We needed the result, but it’s obviously even better when it comes against your rivals.
“Newcastle put us on the back foot in the first 30 minutes, but when we got the penalty, the game changed.
“We knew the second half was going to be a lot easier with them down to 10, and we managed to capitalise on it.”
Meanwhile, Sam Allardyce has admitted the decision to send Coloccini off was “harsh”.
However, he insisted that referee Madley was right to award the penalty for the foul on the stroke of half-time, and says Sunderland fans won’t care about the decision today when they celebrate the victory.
Allardyce said: “We have taken full advantage of a piece of good fortune, I think.
“I thought it was a foul.
“If he hadn’t have made contact then Fletcher would have scored, on his left foot, his best side.
“It is a bit harsh sending him off, but those are the rules. We have taken full advantage. When the Sunderland fans wake up they won’t be worried about that!
“We have won and kept the record going, six wins on the trot. The fourth manager to be in charge of the club on his second game and beat our local rivals, it is a bizarre statistic but very nice to keep it going.
“I’m delighted we have our first win under our belt. 10 games to get it was far too long, but hopefully we can pick up more results now.”