Sunderland boss David Moyes has called for more of the same from his players after seeing them haul themselves off the bottom of the Premier League table for Christmas.
Patrick van Aanholt’s third goal of the season secured a 1-0 victory over Watford at the Stadium of Light which, coupled with Swansea’s 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough and Hull’s 1-0 reverse at West Ham, eased the Black Cats into 18th place, just a point adrift of Crystal Palace in 17th.
A delighted Moyes said: “It is big that we are off [the bottom]. It’s big because we have actually got back in contact.
“We have now won three out of four of our home games recently, so that sounds better. It’s more like what you would hope you would get.
“If we had that sort of record between now and the end of the season, it would give us a great chance of being a Premier League club.”
At the end of a week during which Moyes was told he would have little to spend in January and admitted he might have had second thoughts about taking the job had he known that in advance, his team provided him with the perfect tonic, although it was a win which was ground out.
After a distinctly ordinary first-half showing, Van Aanholt struck after turning substitute Christian Kabasele and firing home off the inside of a post with 49 minutes gone.
Moyes, who revealed he had not spoken to owner Ellis Short in the wake of his comments in recent days, said: “I’ll tell you what, it was a really good finish.
“To manipulate the finish he did and get a turn in, it was a great finish. Actually, it was one of our best moves. Adnan [Januzaj] had a great turn and slipped away, played in Jermain [Defoe] – it just sent him a bit wider and he got it back in.
“But great credit to Pat for getting into the six-yard box to get himself a turn and a finish. It was great the way he manipulated the finish, it really was.
“I’m thrilled to get the win because I knew it was really important for the players and for the club, and for us to stay in touch.
“Look, there were bits of it not as nice as I’d like it, but there was lots of resilience and we stuck at it. We had bits of good attacking play, but not enough. We had some good defending, then we had some not so good, but overall I am thrilled that we got three points, a really important three points for us.”