Fletcher losing fitness fight
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet is refusing to give up on Steven Fletcher, but fears injury has brought a premature end to his season.
The Black Cats could desperately do with their most potent attacking weapon making a shock return to action before the end of the campaign.
With the club still rooted to the foot of the Premier League table, seven points from safety, they have little margin for error in their remaining seven fixtures.
It is, however, looking increasingly likely that they will have to scrap for survival without last season's 11-goal top marksman.
Fletcher has sat out their last four outings with ankle ligament damage suffered in a goalless draw with Crystal Palace and it could be that he has played his last game for Sunderland - as relegation would spark summer interest in his services and force Poyet's hand as he looks to cut costs.
For now, though, the Black Cats boss has told the Sunderland Echo on his Scotland international: "It's not good and it's going to be difficult (for him to return).
"But we're trying our best to use him, whether it's possible for one game, two games or three games.
"Imagine if we had him for the final week of the season - that would be three games.
"I'm not going to give up on him, but maybe that's me.
"At the moment, though, it's difficult to say."