Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce hailed the impact of Duncan Watmore after a 2-0 win over 10-man Stoke City lifted the Wearsiders out of the Premier League bottom three.
Having been frustrated in a low-key first half at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland claimed back-to-back wins with two late goals following Ryan Shawcross’ contentious 47th-minute dismissal.
Shawcross was sent off for a second bookable offence after being adjudged to have fouled Watmore – who came on as a first-half substitute for the injured Jermain Defoe – despite replays suggesting the Stoke captain won the ball.
Sunderland left it late to take advantage, Patrick van Aanholt’s rasping drive from Adam Johnson’s lay-off breaking the deadlock eight minutes from time before Watmore got his reward for a strong display with a fine solo goal.
Allardyce said: “Dunc scoring the winning goal, a new contract, a Masters degree – it doesn’t get any better than that does it. We just have to make sure we keep his feet on the ground.
“He came on and with what he has shown me, in the short time that I have been here, I had no hesitation for him to come on for Jermain.
“The impact of Duncan is one of the major factors of winning this game. He caused the central defenders so many problems in the first and second half.
“They had to resort to fouling him and that got Ryan Shawcross sent off.
“We then had to find two pieces of quality to beat a resilient Stoke, Adam and Patrick van Aanholt’s free-kick and then young Dunc’s second.”
Asked about Shawcross’ red card, Allardyce added: “I think the sending off was fair enough, they [Stoke] had committed so many fouls against him [Watmore].
“They couldn’t cope and when you persistently foul, particularly as a centre half, the referee will have no option but to brandish two yellows and a red.
“I thought the referee was correct in his decisions.”