Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill hailed his side’s 1-0 win at Southampton on Saturday as ‘massive’ for the club.
Steven Fletcher’s first-half strike gave Sunderland an important three points that lifted them four points above the relegation zone.
After a dreadful beginning to the season, the Stadium of Light outfit have won two of their last three matches.
And O’Neill believes the momentum gained from their wins over Reading and Southampton can help transform the club’s fortunes in the current campaign.
“In the last three games, we’ve been able to win two games against sides beside us (on the table) at this moment,” O’Neill said.
“It has been a tough old season right from the start and I just feel that win today, obviously before Christmas and with the programme we have coming up in the next three games, is massive for us.
“We got a bit of confidence from that, although we have a fair few games to go.”
Sunderland have only scored 19 league goals this season, with Fletcher – who joined the club in the off-season for a reported fee of 12 million pounds from Wolves – contributing eight of them.
He proved the difference at St Mary’s Stadium and O’Neill was delighted with the Scot’s contribution.
“Fletcher has been fantastic for us, really fantastic,” he said.
“His contribution to the club this season has been immense. It is not just that he scores a goal or two for us, but they have been big goals.”
Southampton manager Nigel Adkins felt his side were ‘flat’ going forward.
In front of their home fans, the Premier League strugglers – who sit 17th on the table – struggled to create chances in the absence of playmaker Adam Lallana, who has a knee injury.
“It just didn’t happen for us today,” Adkins said.
“For me, it was uncharacteristically flat for whatever reason. Obviously I will digest that and with the goal we conceded just before half-time, there are two or three people that could have done better in stopping the goal.
“That has obviously given Sunderland something to hang onto in the second half and, to give them credit, they defended well.
“We tried to change things around early to give ourselves an opportunity to increase the tempo, find a way forward, stretch the game to create openings, but unfortunately we haven’t scored any goals.”
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