Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has warned his players they are still in a Barclays Premier League relegation battle despite collecting six points in as many days.
The Black Cats followed up Monday night’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace with a 2-0 victory over 10-man Stoke at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon to climb out of the bottom three for the first time this season.
However, Allardyce, who now has three wins from his six games at the helm, is adamant there is still much work to be done.
He said: “We might be out of the bottom three, but it’s still relegation [in terms of] points per game played and we have got to make sure we continue to lessen that gap, the quicker the better and certainly by winning three in the first six, it takes us to where we want to be going.
“I said when I came here, I don’t really want to be doing what the club has done over the last four years and have to win a huge amount of games in the last six or eight matches. Let’s try not to get there and let’s try to do it as quickly as we can.”
Stoke were up against it from the moment skipper Ryan Shawcross, who had earlier been booked for a cynical foul on Steven Fletcher, was cautioned for a second time for a 47th-minute challenge on Watmore, although replays suggested he was unfortunate to see red.
However, the home side had to wait until the 82nd-minute to get their noses in front when substitute Adam Johnson squared a free-kick to Patrick van Aanholt and he blasted his first league goal for the club past the helpless Jack Butland from 25 yards.
But it was 21-year-old Duncan Watmore, who had replaced the injured Jermain Defoe before the break, who sealed the win with an equally accomplished finish three minutes later.
The goal was the perfect response to his manager’s challenge this week to add end-product to his game and went some of the way towards justifying his new four and a half-year contract.
Allardyce said: “New contract, honours degree, winning goal – it doesn’t get any better than that, does it? We just have to make sure he keeps his feet on the ground, that’s what we have to do now.
“He came on on what he has shown me in the short time I have been here. He caused the central defenders so many problems in the first half and then in the second half, where they had to resort to fouling him and continuing to foul him, which got Shawcross sent off.”