His contribution will have come as a huge relief to his boss, who had insisted in the run-up to the game that his frontmen would start scoring soon after a barren start to the campaign. Stoke, who were unbeaten in the league away from home before Saturday afternoon, had dragged themselves back into the game through Charlie Adam’s 15th-minute equaliser, but they could not complete the comeback in front of a crowd of 42,713. Poyet, who celebrates a year in his job next week, sprang something of a surprise when he left former Manchester City duo Rodwell and Johnson sitting on the bench, but the ploy ultimately paid off. Jordi Gomez and Fletcher were the beneficiaries of the Uruguayan’s big call as he attempted to inject firepower into a team which had managed just five goals in its first six Premier League games of the season, and the change paid early dividends. The Black Cats went ahead with just five minutes on the clock when Fletcher bundled his way into space on the right side of the penalty area before floating a cross to the far post for Wickham to head home his first goal of the season. But Stoke, who won 2-1 on Wearside in the Capital One Cup 11 days ago, worked their way back into the game and were level within 10 minutes after staging a trademark counter-attack. Full-back Billy Jones was caught on his heels after the home side were penalised for offside and Victor Moses exploited the space he had left behind to find Adam, who held off the advancing Santiago Vergini before firing low past keeper Vito Mannone. However, Sunderland restored their lead with 23 minutes gone when Gomez worked a short corner with Sebastian Larsson before sending in a cross which Fletcher guided expertly past keeper Asmir Begovic. Press Association Steven Fletcher’s first goals of 2014 belatedly handed Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet an opening Barclays Premier League victory of the season at the seventh attempt. The Scotland international, who last found the back of the net in a league game at Cardiff on December 28, headed home Jordi Gomez’s cross after setting up Conor Wickham for his fifth-minute opener, and then wrapped up a 3-1 win with a second 11 minutes from time. Fletcher, restored to the starting line-up after Poyet relegated £20million midfield duo Jack Rodwell and Adam Johnson to the bench, made the most of his latest opportunity to remind fans of his form on Wearside in the immediate aftermath of his £12million arrival from Wolves. Adam then forced Mannone to tip over a swinging free-kick and defender Ryan Shawcross, on his 27th birthday, powered a header just off target from the Scot’s corner as the Potters pressed for a second equaliser. Winger Will Buckley almost caught Begovic out with a floated cross-cum-shot from wide on the right, but Mannone had to be on his toes to turn away Peter Crouch’s acrobatic volley in injury-time at the end of an absorbing first 45 minutes. Shawcross threw himself into the path of a 48th-minute piledriver from Patrick van Aanholt after the full-back had been allowed time and space, although Gomez was grateful to see Crouch fail to make the most of his woeful back-pass seconds later. As the half wore on, it was Stoke who had the greater momentum with Sunderland retreating and defending well, but inviting further pressure by clearing their lines agriculturally and with little thought of attempting to retain possession. Steven Nzonzi fired wide from distance with 56 minutes gone, but the Black Cats responded and it was the visitors who were defending deep and in numbers as the hour-mark came and went. Mannone did well to clutch substitute Oussama Assaidi’s driven 73rd-minute shot from a narrow angle with Crouch ready to pounce on any rebound, but the game was over within six minutes. Wickham embarked on powerful run from deep and crossed for substitute Rodwell, who comically miskicked in front of goal. However, Fletcher was on hand to help himself and put the result beyond any doubt.