Costel Pantilimon is confident Sunderland will stay up this season - now they are playing like a “proper” team.
Monday night’s morale-boosting win at Crystal Palace resulted in a much-needed three points and also a rare clean sheet.
The club’s Romanian stopper believes it showed Sam Allardyce’s squad are up for the fight of staying in the top flight, provided they keep showing the same levels of “desire and commitment”.
Sunderland have only won twice in the Premier League - but the display at Selhurst Park was the best of the season.
It came at the right time too, with Allardyce’s squad facing a daunting December with away games at Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City plus Liverpool at home.
Pantilimon admits it is vital the Black Cats build on the win at Selhurst Park for the visit of Stoke City on Saturday, before their tough run of festive fixtures.
Last year we had plenty of clean sheets and with that kind of commitment and desire we will stay up.Costel Pantilimon
“We played like a proper team, we defended well and showed good commitment,” Pantilimon told the Echo.
“That is important and we needed these three points.
“It is very good that we took them at Palace and now we need to continue that form.
“It is important to perform as a team, we showed that and everyone deserves the credit.
“After a win we need to keep it going and it is important we continue against Stoke.
“They are a very good team with good players.
“We expect it to be a hard one.
“We need to perform exactly like we did [on Monday] and be strong and compact and show the same quality.”
Sunderland’s stay of execution in the Premier League last season was built on a foundation of 13 clean sheets.
This season they have struggled to achieve those heights, with just two clean sheets from their opening 13 league matches, the latest coming in Monday’s win.
And Pantilimon says it is imperative they build on that dogged performance at the Stadium of Light.
The back three of John O’Shea, Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Coates, flanked by Billy Jones and Patrick Van Aanholt, provided Pantilimon’s goal with the required level of protection.
When they were breached, Pantilimon was in good form to ensure the side headed back to the North East with all three points and that all important shut-out.
A delighted Pantilimon hopes it is the start of things to come.
“We have not had many clean sheets this season, the only other one was against Newcastle,” he added.
“I hope to have more of them!
“Last year we had plenty of clean sheets and with that kind of commitment and desire we will stay up.
“I was happy with my own performance, especially when I don’t concede a goal.
“I am happy when I can help my team, of course, and I am very happy with the guys in front, they work hard.
“This is the most important and happy thing for me.”
Allardyce’s decision to make five changes and revert to a 3-5-2 formation paid dividends at Palace.
Pantilimon, who made a couple of important saves in the second half to keep his side in it, insists he doesn’t mind which formation Sunderland play though - as long as they pick up the required points.
And he points to the experience of Republic of Ireland captain O’Shea, Kaboul and Coates as a key reason why Sunderland can maintain their status as a top tier team.
“The formation doesn’t matter for me,” revealed the 28-year-old former Man City gloveman.
“The manager decides which system we can play.
“At Palace we played with three at the back and we did well.
“We have good, quality players with good experience.
“We defended well and I hope it continues.”