Analysis: Injury-ravaged Sunderland show they have the spirit to beat the drop

Patrick van Aanholt in action
Patrick van Aanholt in action
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It was far from pretty but an injury-ravaged Sunderland side showed in the win over Watford that they have in abundance the necessary spirit needed to stay up.

The first half was largely forgettable, with the level of quality on show from both sides poor.

Walter Mazzarri's side know every trick in the book when it comes to frustrating teams, winning free-kicks and generally being a pain to play against.

But Sunderland kept their nerve and their composure and eventually came away with another precious three points.

Just in time for Christmas too. The Premier League table looks far healthier this weekend with the Black Cats just a point from fourth-bottom Crystal Palace.

Four wins in seven games is an impressive record for any side and Sunderland - and manager David Moyes - deserve immense credit for turning their season around.

The previous weekend's heavy defeat at Swansea City showed that you can never rest on your laurels in this division, you are only ever one game away from a humbling.

But Moyes and his coaching staff have been impressed by the reaction to that defeat in training this week and in the games against title favourites Chelsea, a narrow 1-0 loss, and now Watford.

Sunderland's problems off the pitch have been well documented this week, with a growing injury list adding to the inability to strengthen sufficiently in January.

Moyes, with his injury concerns, is down to a core group of senior first team players of about 15 in number, with the bench again fleshed out with youngsters from the Under-23s.

Mid-table Watford had injury problems of their own but Sunderland fans will care little about that.

Moyes and his players can reflect on a job very well done with marauding left-back Patrick van Aanholt scoring the winner four minutes into the second half.

A very tidy finish on the back of a flowing team move.

No defender has scored more Premier League goals since the start of last season than the Dutch left-back, who has netted seven.

Watford had their chances but Sunderland just about edged the performance after a far stronger second-half showing.

Sunderland recording only their second clean sheet of the season in the process.

Whatever Moyes said at half-time had the desired affect. Moyes said this was a must-win game for his side. And they were up to the challenge.

Sunderland raised their game and with it further raised hopes of another successful battle against the drop.