STEVEN Fletcher is eager to play his part in a record-breaking fourth successive derby victory after missing both of Sunderland’s last two St James’s Park triumphs.
Fletcher has experienced the ecstasy of finishing on the winning side in a Tyne-Wear derby after scoring Sunderland’s opening goal in last season’s Stadium of Light success over the Magpies.
But the Scottish international has missed both of Sunderland’s successive 3-0 victories on Tyneside due to injury.
However, with Fletcher now recovered from the minor back problem which saw him lose his place in the side against Liverpool 10 days ago, the striker wants to help Sunderland to a fourth win on the spin over Newcastle United for the first time in the club’s history.
Fletcher told the Gazette: “I’ve missed both 3-0s when we’ve been there so I’m looking forward to it.
“I wasn’t even at St James’s for both of them. I was stuck watching television with a moon boot on.
“But we’ve got confidence that we can go there and win it again.
“We’ve done it before so why can’t we do it again?
“There’s a lot of confidence around the team at the moment, despite the draws.
“We’re keeping the door shut at the back which is great for the defenders.
“We know if we can get a few goals, then we’ll pick up a win.”
Three points at St James’s would put a far more positive complexion on a season which continues to hang in the balance after a 10th draw of the campaign against West Ham last weekend.
No side outside the top six has lost fewer games than Gus Poyet’s side.
But equally, no side has won fewer than Sunderland and bottom two, Hull and Leicester, who have each managed just two victories all season.
Fletcher falls into the “glass half-full” camp; stressing how being hard to beat is preferable to the soft-touch which applied to the Black Cats last season.
The 27-year-old added: “You get one win and you fly up the table. It’s so tight this year.
“We’re still in good form which is good for us.
“It depends how you look at it. We got another point on the board against West Ham.
“I know we’ve got a lot of draws this year, but last year we were losing these games.
“Now we’re keeping the door shut at the back, which is good, and we just need to take our chances and convert them into wins.
“We are set out to keep defending and keep the ball going into our goal, and catch people on the break.
“We are creating chances, we can’t complain about that. We just need to start taking them.
“If we convert these draws into wins, it will be a happier place again.”