Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray has challenged his players to keep their impressive run going after a 2-0 win over Watford kept them fourth in the Championship.
Full-back Niall Huggins’ thunderous first goal of his professional career put the Black Cats on course for three points two minutes before half-time.
Abdoullah Ba’s back-post header in the 62nd minute effectively sealed the points before the Hornets had substitute Ryan Andrews sent off for a reckless tackle on Jack Clarke late on.
It was Sunderland’s sixth win in eight matches, leaving them six points off the top two ahead of Saturday’s meeting with neighbours Middlesbrough.
Mowbray said: “I’m delighted for Niall. He has had a tough time in the year or so I’ve been here with injury. Yet he’s had really high moments too.
“We did huff and puff for 45 minutes but we got the job done. I thought the centre-backs were amazing tonight. I’m pleased with them all, we have goals all over the pitch.
“We have to keep going. We kept a clean sheet and got three points.
“The moment normally comes from Jack Clarke or Patrick Roberts, and yet Niall comes up with an amazing goal.
“We preserved what we were doing. Sitting here now with 2-0 feels good. It was a dangerous game.
“I’m not sure Watford’s results warrant the talent they have. I am just pleased we have three points and move on to the next one.”