PAUL Lambert headed away from the Stadium of Light on Saturday night an understandably happy man after Aston Villa’s first away Premier League win since January.
It was a victory just about deserved for Villa who took their chance to score and held on resolutely enough against Sunderland’s frenetic but unfocused efforts to level over the course of the last half hour.
And it completed a great few days for the Scottish manager who had started the week under similar pressure to mentor Martin O’Neill but ended it on a high.
While Sunderland suffered cup exit on Tuesday and league defeat on Saturday, Villa had the boost of two successes.
And those two victories lifted a burden from Lambert’s shoulders, as well as his side into the last eight of the Capital One Cup and his team away from the Premier League drop zone.
“It has been a good couple of results and hopefully they will be a springboard for us this season,” he said.
“Why shouldn’t it be?
“But it is not easy for any of us.
“There are some really top teams in this division and there’s not much to choose between the rest of us, which means it is really easy to hit a rough patch.”
He was asked in each Press conference on Saturday night about Martin O’Neill’s plight but was reluctant to get drawn into that.
“All you can do is go out there and win games and he’ll do that. He’ll turn it around.
“I know that because I played under him for five years and I know what he’s like.”
At every turn, Lambert tried to turn the discussion back to his own players and his own team’s performance.
“I thought we were excellent,” he said. “So many encouraging displays.
“Christian Benteke can be anything he wants. He could become a truly top international striker, a hell of a player.
“He’s in the Belgian side on merit and he’s only going to get better.
“I thought Ashley Westwood was absolutely outstanding for somebody still new to it, someone who has moved up from Crewe Alexandra.
“He kept it simple and made it look easy.
“You look at Stephen Ireland and he is a really clever footballer, very, very naturally talented – we try to give him the belief to go out there and just use that natural ability.
“And then finally there is Gabby Agbonlahor, who I think is playing exceptionally well at the moment.
“He’s scored in the cup midweek and against Sunderland at the weekend, but we are not going to look at how many goals he has or hasn’t scored.
“We’re not going to put him under pressure, we’re just going to let him get on with it.
“We’re just pleased to go away from home and pick up points. It’s great because it’s not easy to win away from home in this division.”
Lambert insisted that at no stage did he feel relaxed about the outcome until the final whistle was blown.
“Sunderland threw everything at us,” he said.
“Our defence had to be solid because Sunderland were coming at us pretty strongly, especially towards the end.
“But I thought some of the football we played was excellent, even on the counter-attack we were looking very good, very dangerous.”