A fine goal and an impressive display at Port Vale capped a strong run of performances from George Honeyman.
The captain lost his place in the side at the start of this seven game winning sequence, but came off the bench at Bradford City and played a key part in seeing the game out.
Since then he has been a regular and in the absence of Max Power and latterly Lee Cattermole, the 24-year-old has put a marker down.
Taking the armband has inevitably led to greater scrutiny of his performances but Honeyman says that his game is improving as a result.
“We’ve been missing big players in terms of Lee and Max in recent weeks,” he said.
“I wanted to show I could stamp my authority on games and be that person there to drive us forward from midfield.
“I can play in any number of positions and at the minute I’m playing in central midfield. With those two being missing recently I knew I had to step up to the plate so I’m glad we’ve kept the winning run up while I’ve been in there.
“It is only my second full season but I never really think about it like that. Last year I felt like an experienced player past January. As captain I’ve got to take responsibility on my shoulders in terms of trying to get us to win games and luckily everything’s going well in that way, and long may it continue.
“I’m not bothered about the pressure or anything that it [captaincy] brings. If anything, I feel like it makes me better.”
Power is set to start in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night in order to rebuild his match fitness.
Honeyman said that competition for places will help the team maintain its recent form.
“It’s great to have Max back,” he said.
“He’s very experienced at this level. But like anyone who’s coming back from injury and suspension, he’s going to have to earn his way back into the side because everyone who’s coming in at the minute is doing a great job and that’s why everything’s so good.
“The competition for places goes through training and matches. You go into matches knowing you’re going to have to earn your shirt otherwise there’s someone breathing down your neck. That’s only going to lead to positive things.”
Lifting the League One Trophy is the ultimate goal for Honeyman and the Black Cats this year, but the midfielder says the squad are happy to keep playing regularly and keep the feel-good factor going.
“I wouldn’t say the cups are a distraction at all,” he said.
“When you get into the mentality of winning games you want as many games as possible. We’d be happy with a game every three days when we’re thinking as we are at the minute, ‘Right, let’s just get on and win it.’
“That’s why we’re really excited about the FA Cup as well. We just want to get into each round and win the game.
“We just want to keep going because at the minute we’re feeling good so let’s bring on anyone.
“I think we’ve shown in every Checkatrade game that we’ve had we’ve played a relatively strong team and now there are not many games to get to Wembley if we can carry on this run,” he added.
“But not only that, we want to keep up our run of wins, keeping the momentum going.
“Whatever the match we want to come off as winners and it will take us massively far if we carry that winning mentality into whatever – whether it’s training games, Checkatrade, FA Cup, league – we want to go and win it.”