Fletcher setback for Sunderland
Published 11/04/2014 | 17:07
Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher is unlikely to play again this season because of his ankle injury.
The 27-year-old Scotland international, who has missed the last four games, will sit out against Everton on Saturday and is likely to play no further part in the club's fight for Barclays Premier League survival.
Manager Gus Poyet is otherwise remaining coy over a series of minor knocks, but goalkeeper Keiren Westwood is still sidelined by a shoulder problem.
Poyet has told his players to be brave as they attempt to escape the drop.
The Black Cats slumped to the foot of the table after a disastrous few days last weekend which saw Fulham, West Brom and Crystal Palace all win before they were thrashed 5-1 at Tottenham on Monday evening.
Poyet's men are now seven points adrift of safety and knowing their two games in hand will count for little if they do not manufacture a significant improvement in form.
The 46-year-old Uruguayan admitted after the debacle at White Hart Lane that his side would need a miracle to stay up, and had called upon his players to stand up and be counted in the club's hour of need.
Poyet said: "We try, we try to be brave. We have played games away from home against top teams and we have left one up front and we did okay; against Liverpool, we left two all the time and we did better; and against Spurs, we left two and we were terrible.
"That shows you that it doesn't matter too much sometimes, all the plans and all the things because it depends what happens on the pitch in 90 minutes, how we cope with situations, how we pass the ball, how we defend.
"But maybe that word, being 'brave' is one of the biggest ones in this situation."
Midfielder Leon Osman is Everton's only doubt.
The 32-year-old had to have five stitches in an eye wound early in last weekend's victory over Arsenal.
Defender Phil Jagielka (hamstring) could be fit to return for next weekend's visit of Manchester United.
Boss Roberto Martinez believes fighting for a place in the top four is no different from a relegation battle as the requirements are essentially identical.
"I think it is exactly the same, if I am completely honest," he said.
"It is being able to focus on the game itself, understanding the intensity and the focus you need in every action.
"In every season, whatever you are playing for, it comes down to the final points you are playing for: whether it is for staying in the league, making the top four or winning the title it is exactly the same.
"Looking back at other seasons with Wigan, we managed to get seven wins out of the last nine and that is the same intensity you need to have in any aim you are fighting for."