STEVEN Fletcher produced one of his best performance in a Sunderland shirt in the Tyne-Wear derby, insists Gus Poyet.
Fletcher was recalled to the starting line-up for last weekend’s 1-0 win at Newcastle after two games on the bench, following a back injury which had opened the door for fellow frontman Jozy Altidore.
The Scotland international, who had missed the previous two victories at St James’s Park, failed to add to his tally of four goals for the season after being denied by the crossbar.
But Fletcher still made a telling contribution, with his control and hold-up play immaculate throughout, and the £12m frontman also having a hand in Adam Johnson’s last-minute winner.
Sunderland boss Poyet said: “I don’t want to exaggerate because Fletch didn’t score two.
“But I thought he had one of his best games for us.
“His touch, his movement and even the last pass for the goal was magnificent.
“I’m pleased for him. I know how important it is for strikers.
“If there was a game he wanted to play, it was that one after missing the last two games there.”
Poyet relegated Jozy Altidore to the bench against the Magpies after the American international’s glaring miss in the 1-1 draw with West Ham eight days earlier.
The Sunderland boss has been encouraging Altidore on the training field since that last Stadium of Light encounter.
But Poyet knows that Altidore desperately needs a goal to boost his confidence after the 25-year-old has gone more than a year without finding the net in the Premier League.
“I’ve been talking to him a little bit more than usual, but general things, not specific,” added Poyet.
“He can play one of his best games for the club against Liverpool, but then he has one chance and he doesn’t take it.
“But at the moment, he’s all right, fit, strong.
“It’s a matter of scoring.
“Yeah, I would like him to have the chance to take three penalties in a row so he scores a couple.
“But if you get a penalty in the last minute, it would be putting extreme pressure on him to take it.
“We just need to keep it normal and don’t make it bigger than it is.”