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The England Under-21 international has struggled for game time at the Black Cats, but hopes he can force the manager's hand after helping his side force a replay against Bolton

Sunderland striker Connor Wickham hopes his goal in the FA Cup third round against Bolton can help force his way into Martin O'Neill's first-team plans.

The 19-year-old scored just four minutes after coming off the bench to bring his side back into the game, with Craig Gardner then netting an equaliser to force a replay against their lower-league opponents.

"Hopefully, this can be a real kick-start to my season,” the England under-21 international told Sky Sports.

"It's always my aim to be in there in the manager's plans and hopefully the goal has put me in an even better position."

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"I didn't think I was going to get on but when I did I was able to make a difference. We were 2-0 down so I thought 'There's nothing to lose, just get on there and do your best'."

The forward arrived at the Wearside club from Ipswich in an £8 million deal in 2011 but has scored just two goals from seven starts since, having to rely on heavily on cameos from the bench.

But Wickham insists he has no regrets about moving, though admitted he has found the transition harder than he initially expected.

He commented: "I just want to play football and Sunderland are a Premier League club and they've given me the chance to play football.

"It's been really tough for me. I've moved 300 miles away from where I grew up and left my home behind - but it's my dream and you've got to follow your dream.

"Maybe it didn't get off to the perfect start, the start I'd hoped for or anticipated, but now I feel much fitter and stronger and feel as though I'm kicking on."

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