ROSS Stewart is expected to be leading the forward line for Sunderland's opening game of the season against Wigan Athletic. 

After signing midway through last season, he struggled to maintain fitness throughout the campaign making just two league starts. 

With the Black Cats staring down the barrel of another play-off defeat at the hands of Lincoln City, Stewart,24, was thrown into the deep end starting up front for their second leg at the Stadium of Light. 

In front of noisy crowd of 10,000 fans (you could be forgiven for thinking there was more in there), Stewart bagged the games opening goal from close range with a well worked move that lifted the roof off the ground. 

Although the end result wasn't to be for Sunderland, Stewart's goal will live long in the memory of the young Scotsman. 

Fresh from his exploits back in May, Stewart played in front of Sunderland fans last Friday evening in their pre-season friendly against Hull City. 

Another well worked goal with Sunderland winning back possession and feeding the tall striker saw Stewart score in front of fans once again repeating his feat just a couple of months ago. 

"It was great to have the fans back tonight." said Stewart. 

"Hopefully we'll have them back here again next week and hopefully with it being a big crowd and being a big opener, we can perform well and send them home with a win. 

With only 13 appearances for Sunderland since joining Ross County during the January transfer window, Stewart has big shoes to fill replacing the void left back Wigan Athletic new man Charlie Wyke ahead of the new League One season.

But the big man is ready to put his injury hit start behind him. 

"Obviously I’ve had my difficulties, fitness wise, since I came to the club so to get a full pre-season under my belt has done me the world of good.

"I’m feeling good, I’m feeling fit, feeling sharp and hopefully I can take that into the league and stay healthy and do well.

"Pre-season is always tough, it’s just part of football. The lads have done really well. I think you can see with how well that fitness levels are and we can take that into the league now. We can use that as a base now to go and have a good season."