KEIREN Westwood insists a winning start to the Martin O’Neill era has not blinded Sunderland’s players to their league position.
A first win in six against Blackburn Rovers last weekend lifted the Black Cats out of the relegation zone and instilled some much-needed confidence in a side struggling to hit the heights of last season’s 10th-placed finish.
But Sunderland remain just two points clear of the bottom three ahead of Sunday’s daunting trip to fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur, who have racked up five successive top-flight victories at White Hart Lane.
Westwood hailed the win against Blackburn as “massive” but knows O’Neill’s men must maintain the momentum from the keeper’s first win in a Sunderland shirt.
The Republic of Ireland international told the Echo: “We needed a win against Blackburn whether it was a different manager in place or not.
“We should have won both the Wigan and Wolves games – it was a crazy 25 seconds at Molineux – so we should be higher up the table, we know that.
“We know we should have a better points tally.
“But the only way we can rectify that is to keep going and pick up as many as we can.
“It was a massive three points against Blackburn and the way we went about it, I don’t think anyone can say we didn’t deserve it.
“We battered them and we got our rewards.
“The manner of the victory was great as well, by winning it in the last minute. We were all delighted.
“I’ve heard a lot about the atmosphere up here and when there’s a big crowd, it generates a lot of noise. They had something to cheer about for a change.”
The 27-year-old now expects a testing time against Harry Redknapp’s high-fliers. The former Coventry goalie added: “It’s a big game for us at Spurs and we’re looking forward to it.
“As a goalkeeper, you expect a busy afternoon – they’re a top four team with a big squad and they’ve won a lot of games at home.
“It’s going to be a tough place, but we’ve picked up a bit of confidence now and you never know.”
Westwood was involved in one of the game’s pivotal moments last weekend when Blackburn defender Christopher Samba was adjudged to have fouled the ex-Coventry stopper before the ball ended up in the Sunderland net.
Blackburn boss Steve Kean criticised referee Peter Walton for disallowing the goal, but Westwood is adamant he was obstructed by Samba.
“I think he fouled me,” added Westwood, speaking at the club’s store in the Galleries, Washington to mark late opening hours over the festive period.
“When someone goes to get the ball and another person doesn’t, it’s a free-kick. I think he bumped me out the way and that’s obstruction.
“If he had challenged with me to get the ball, then I think it’s fair enough.
“But he didn’t make any attempt, he just banged straight into me and wasn’t even looking at the ball.”
H Sunderland half-season tickets are on sale now in the run-up to Boxing Day’s Stadium of Light clash with Everton.
The visit of the Toffees is the first available match on the 11-game half-season card, which includes games with Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Premier League champions Manchester United.
Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill said: “At the Blackburn game, the crowd really got behind the team.
“The players mentioned in the dressing room how much of a good feeling that was – it was terrific.
“The whole place lifted after (David) Vaughan’s goal and the extra surge that the crowd gave us at the end, I think, helped force in that second goal.”
Adult 11-game cards are available from £255, while concessionary tickets are available at £175 for under-22s, £195 for over-65s and £55 for under-16s.
The 11-game card is available online at safc.com, via the dedicated ticket hotline 0871 911 1973 or in-person from the Stadium of Light ticket office.