Two games, six points.
Just what was the panic? Sunderland achieved back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since top flight survival in May after a Victor Anichebe brace and Jermain Defoe’ s 150th Premier League goal sunk Hull City 3-0.
While this triumph was priceless – following on from the smash ‘n’ grab victory at Bournemouth – it does not make the Black Cats safe it has made a huge difference to their prospects.
What did we learn from this basement battle?
Stick with 4-4-2:
The old-favourite might be out of fashion in the modern game but it’s airing at Sunderland is doing David Moyes’s side no harm.
Anichebe made it two goals in three games and Defoe scored his seventh – and best – of the season.
The 150-man also notched his second assist in as many matchdays.
It might not be your archetypal two up top, but it’s proving mighty effective.
After seven goals in the first nine games, the side now has five in the last two.
Say no more.
There’s not a better Premier League keeper than Jordan Pickford:
You could stick any keeper from the top six between the sticks at Sunderland and he would not out-perform the Black Cats stopper.
The 22-year-oldis not getting an armchair ride from the 10 Cats in front of him.
Far from it – he continues to bail out his side. His saves on Saturday from Dieumerci Mbokani, Sam Clucas, Robert Snodgrass and Curtis Davies were absolute worldies. There were others too, they were just the pick of the bunch.
It would be nice if he could be given a less hectic afternoon,but Sunderland know they have a great, if young, man protecting them.
Midfield needs some attention:
As stated previously, any midfield missing Lee Cattermole or Jan Kirchhoff, or both, will find it hard going.
Jason Denayer came in on Saturday to sit as the deep lying midfielder and did an effective job before feeling a twinge late on and being subbed.
But Sunderland were cut open a couple of times too often and while it did not cost them against Hull, it may do this weekend at Anfield.
Granted it was a new combination, but it needs to be firing on all cylinders against Liverpool.
Don’t dive in when you are on a yellow card:
Steven Pienaar could count himself a little unlucky with the yellow card he picked up at Bournemouth to end up with a red in the previous game.
But there was an element of naivety for Papy Djilobodji on Saturday.
Already on a booking for going through the back of Mbokani in the first half, he caught sub Jarrod Bowen late on and referee Lee Mason produced a second yellow.
At 3-0, it was unnecessary to be taking any risks and it has cost him a one-match ban.
Defoe shows no signs of taking his foot off the pedal:
If you took in Match of the Day you may well have noted that only one English striker has more Premier League goals in 2016 than the Sunderland skipper.
Defoe has 18 with Tottenham’s Harry Kane just one better off.
The beauty of Defoe is his conversion rate – he has had only one opportunity ineach of his last three games and has put them all away.
If the Cats can just fashion an opening or two more for JD, their path toward safety might just get a little smoother.
For the record it was his 26th Premier goal in Sunderland colours . Spurs is the only club he has scored more for.
Sunderlandmust build on this:
After all that pain in the early weeks, the rewards are starting to come for the Cats.
But there is still work to do – the club remain in deep trouble.
Very few people will give Sunderland a prayer at Liverpool this weekend, but it’s vital the side much continue to build on this display to keep confidence rising going into two vital December dates against Leicester (h) and Swansea (a).
We hear pundits use the word ‘momentum’ ad nauseam but in the case of Sunderland it is crucial. They can’t let this good work slip.