Steven Fletcher says Sunderland’s penalty against Newcastle was the correct decision and admits their first win of the season tasted sweeter because it was a derby.
The Black Cats took full advantage of two refereeing decisions during a frenzied conclusion to the first half – in which they had been decidedly second-best – to belatedly kick-start their campaign in style with a 3-0 derby victory at the Stadium of Light.
Fletcher, one of the few bright spots for the home side before the break, rounded off an eventful afternoon with a well-taken third goal to send the fans home happy for the first time this season with a sixth successive win over the Magpies.
The Scotland international said: “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.”
Fletcher was at the heart of the game’s pivotal moment in first-half injury time when, seconds after team-mate Lee Cattermole had survived a double appeal for a penalty, he went to ground under Fabricio Coloccini’s shoulder charge and saw referee Robert Madley point to the spot and produce a red card.
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce had no qualms about the penalty award, but admitted the red card was harsh, while opposite number Steve McClaren was adamant the challenge was not even a foul and that it should not have happened in any case as his team should have been taking a penalty at the other end.
Fletcher, however, was convinced the official had got it right.
He said: “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.
“He knocked me off. I think he just tried to stop me getting to the ball. It’s a free-kick anywhere else, so why not a penalty?”
Newcastle continued to make chances even with 10 men, but further goals from full-back Billy Jones – his first for the club – and Fletcher ensured the points remained on Wearside.
Jones said: “I’m absolutely made-up to score. I always have that self-confidence going up for set-plays that I might get the second ball. I’ve been close a few times for Sunderland, last year and last week as well.
“It’s huge for us. It’s a derby game, so you want to win to make it six-in-a-row. You want to do it for the fans, do it for the club and have the bragging rights.
“But to get our first win of the season is massive and we needed to get that pressure off ourselves.”