Boss Chris Coleman was again full of praise for Darron Gibson after Sunderland’s 1-0 win over Fulham.
Gibson was singled out by his manager following the draw with Wolves last weekend and impressed again at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
Lee Cattermole’s suspension left Gibson as the only senior midfielder available and the Irish international put in another disciplined display.
Coleman said of the Irishman: “Didier Ndong has been out for the last five or six weeks, we lost Paddy McNair, Catts was suspended – he was the only really natural holding midfielder we had, so he was in there a lot by himself.
“He had to cover a lot of ground because you don’t want to stop George (Honeyman) and Lynden (Gooch) from running forward.
“But it wasn’t just that, I felt his decision-making was excellent, talking to the players around him, staying central unless he really had to move. He’s been excellent the last two games.”
Coleman was in no mood to get carried away after Sunderland’s first home win in almost a year, but he feels his side have ‘nudged forward’.
Sunderland moved out of the Championship’s bottom three following the victory and within three points of Barnsley in 20th position.
But they are just two points ahead of bottom club Birmingham, who visit Wearside this weekend.
Coleman said: “There are some very good signs, but I’ve been in football long enough to know it can change very quickly.
“We’ve got loads to do – there’s loads the group still need from us if we are going to progress.
“The early signs have been good, but we’ve got big, big challenges in front of us, a lot of hard work on the training ground.
“We’ve got to keep doing what we’ve been doing, which is nudging forward slowly, but at least we are going forward.
“They were buzzing in the dressing room. It’s been a good week – a draw away from home, a clean sheet, a win here.
“They deserve to enjoy this moment, but for one or two days max, then it is back on the gallops getting ready for Birmingham.”