Phil Smith's verdict: The stat and Plymouth comments that show just what a good place Sunderland are in

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Derek Adams was spiky after his first 2-0 defeat to Sunderland this season, but on this occasion he was considerably more magnanimous.

There was irritation with a penalty that wasn't given, and one comment about Sunderland's resources, but generally Adams' frustration was with his own side.

George Honeyman scores Sunderland's second goal against Plymouth

George Honeyman scores Sunderland's second goal against Plymouth

They were, he felt, 'scared' and overwhelmed by the occasion.

Argyle winger Paul Anderson said his side showed Sunderland 'too much respect' in the first half, because of 'who they are and what they are doing'.

It's worth dwelling a little longer on the first half period both are referring to for a little longer.

It was one of Sunderland's most impressive and dominant spells of the season, one that should have put a potentially difficult game to bed long before the away side had a chance to steady themselves.

Adams put the blame on his own side, for not pressing well enough and for making poor decisions on the ball.

There is an element of truth in that, but particularly on the latter point, a significant amount of credit has to go to the Black Cats.

Barnsley had piled the pressure on before kick off with an impressive win at Southend United but right from the first minute, Sunderland were in the mood.

The decision to put Lewis Morgan into the starting XI was a good one, the Black Cats immediately putting the Plymouth full backs under pressure.

The front three pressed well and behind them the midfield quickly established their dominance.

On countless occasions Morgan and Aiden McGeady beat their marker, cutting dangerous balls into the box.

The only frustration was the lack of bodies breaking into the final third to take advantage.

Sunderland were playing well without banging the door down.

That changed with a lengthy stoppage midway through the first half, the Black Cats making some small adjustments before going on to completely control proceedings until the interval.

Plymouth's desperately poor play on the ball certainly helped but it was no surprise to see them struggle with both the intensity of the home side and their quality on the ball.

Sunderland looked, as Jack Ross said, 'complete'.

The second half was tougher, but that is to be expected when you consider that only Luton Town and Barnsley had taken more points than Plymouth over the last ten games in League One.

The home side retained a threat and a brave substitution from Ross, taking off the impressive Morgan to alter his shape, paid dividends.

Duncan Watmore helped carry the ball up the pitch and Sunderland were able to regain control of the midfield.

They started to look the more likely side again and George Honeyman's second was well deserved.

Picking out individuals for praise was a thankless task. All over the pitch, Sunderland had got the better of their opponent and an excellent atmosphere in the ground reflected that.

This was the kind of team every supporter wants to see.

There was flair and real quality, but also a tempo and tenacity.

With 12 games to go, Sunderland are in a very good place and the post-match comments from the away side reflected that.

So often this season, the 'big day out' feel has inspired good performances from visiting sides.

Sunderland have done well to come through that without losing a game on home turf, and they are starting to build some real momentum as the quality of the January signings begins to shine through.

If they can continue to play in this manner, Plymouth will not be the last side to wilt.

This is a promotion race that is destined to go right to the wire.

The top four all won, with Portsmouth getting back to form with a superb win. As Ross said after the game, the reality is that all four are having superb seasons, racking up an already impressive points total.

Sunderland's spike in form means their fate is still in their own hands and it should not go unnoticed that this win saw them get back to the two-points-per-game ratio.

A sign of a team and a club in a good place.