NO-ONE is kidding themselves that it is “job done” at the Stadium of Light.
Should Sunderland succumb against a side, Hull, that will surely be one of their main relegation rivals tomorrow, then that much-welcome feel-good factor stemming from another derby triumph will immediately fade.
Gus Poyet’s side have put three points on the board, but there are still another 36 needed.
But if Sunderland can harness the bounce from beating Newcastle by emerging victorious again tomorrow – or even getting a point – then it keeps the Black Cats in contention with those above them.
That will be Poyet’s objective for the next two months.
Sunderland still face a harrowing run of home games before the turn of the year, with the trips to Hull, Stoke and Aston Villa over the next month offering far more hope of points than Stadium of Light clashes with Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs.
But if Sunderland can stay on the coat-tails of those immediately above the drop zone, Poyet’s men will be in a far stronger position than when the Uruguayan took over.
Sunderland will be hardened by the relegation dogfight, will have an inviting run of home games during the second half of the season and have the prospect of strengthening in the January window.
After inheriting a side bereft of confidence and points, Poyet would surely jump at such a situation.
Tomorrow’s trip to Hull is a huge opportunity to build some momentum and create a sense of a genuine Sunderland revival under Poyet.
Yes, Steve Bruce will be desperate to avenge his dismissal as Sunderland boss. But he was equally desperate to beat Newcastle during his time here and that didn’t go so well.
As seemed to be perennially the case during his stint at the Stadium of Light too, injuries have ravaged Bruce’s squad and extr time and penalties on a second visit to White Hart Lane in the space of four days was the last thing he needed.
Pivotal pair Robbie Brady and Sone Aluko are both unlikely to be fit for tomorrow, James Chester, Alex Bruce and keeper Allan McGregor are sidelined – leaving ex-Newcastle goalie Steve Harper to face Sunderland – and on-loan Danny Graham is ineligible to face his former club.
Despite those absentees, Hull have continued to be defensively robust.
Bruce’s side may have only scored three goals in four home games this term, but, impressively, they have conceded just once at the KC Stadium.
Poyet must find a way through that well-drilled defence and it may not involve keeping faith with the XI who triumphed in the derby.
Facing Newcastle is like no other Premier League encounter.
Poyet picked the battlers at his disposal to face the Magpies and it reaped huge rewards, but more quality will be needed on a weekly basis.
There are unlikely to be significant changes to the back four. As Poyet has said, he wants to keep a settled defence after a conveyor belt of combinations in front of Keiren Westwood.
But Emanuele Giaccherini, Ki Sung-Yeung and derby hero Fabio Borini will surely come into Poyet’s thinking this weekend.
The trio offer more than just work-rate and in a game which promises to be tight and evenly-poised, a splash of quality could make all the difference.
An away trip to a depleted and fatigued Hull is a perfect game to build on the derby success though.
If Sunderland had faced an impressive Southampton side in the Capital One Cup in midweek – as they were originally scheduled to do – and succumbed, then the momentum from beating Newcastle would have waned.
But Poyet’s men can now attack Hull at full throttle and prove that survival is a very real possibility.
Verdict: Away win