Colback calls for more wins
Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback has warned his team-mates their recovery mission has only just started.
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The Black Cats hauled themselves out of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone and into the relative comfort of 15th place as a result of their 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Reading on Tuesday night.
However, with trips to Manchester United and Southampton, as well visits to the Stadium of Light by Manchester City and Tottenham, to come before the turn of the year, adding significantly to their 16-point tally could prove difficult.
Colback said: "We certainly feel more comfortable than when we were 18th, that's for sure.
"We knew how important this game was and we have won it. There's a lot of relief.
"We knew coming into it how big a game it was. We have not performed how we would have liked this season and we have not really had the rub of the green very much so far.
"But we knew coming into it that it was a must-win game and we produced on the night.
"But that's not even half the job done. We know we are down there where we don't want to be and where we shouldn't be, and we need to start winning more games, especially here, and giving the fans something to cheer about."
The win was just Sunderland's third in 24 league fixtures dating back to last season, and their first against a side finishing with 11 men since March.
However, club sources were at pains to point out privately beforehand that manager Martin O'Neill was under no pressure despite speculation to the contrary in some quarters and that was a message hammered home in person by owner and chairman Ellis Short in an impromptu and for-information-only briefing in the press room at the Stadium of Light before kick-off.
Nevertheless, O'Neill's players produced a performance which proved too powerful for hapless Reading, who fell behind with less than three minutes on the clock and never looked like recovering.
It was Republic of Ireland international James McClean who did the early damage, latching on to keeper Adam Federici's weak punch and drilling a low left-foot shot home from the edge of the box to mark the first anniversary of his senior debut in style.
Striker Steven Fletcher, who declared himself fit after an ankle injury only on the morning of the game and played without any training under his belt, deftly back-heeled Danny Rose's 28th-minute cross home to extend the lead.
Although the Black Cats had to wait for injury time at the end of the game to wrap up the victory with Stephane Sessegnon's strike, the points had in reality been safe for some time.
Asked about the mood in the dressing room after the final whistle, Colback said: "It's a lot better than it has been obviously.
"It's one of the best feelings you can get in football when you win a game and everyone is buzzing and the fans go home happy.
"It's certainly something that we want to keep on doing."
That may be a tall order this week at least with Sunderland facing the task of attempting to upset the odds at Old Trafford.
However, Colback is confident they can run out with heads held high having proved to themselves that they can win football matches.
He said: "When you go to the top teams, people say you won't pick anything up, but we will certainly be going there looking to hurt them.
"We are a dangerous side to play - we showed that when we went to Everton. We probably should have come away from that game with a win, so we will certainly be going into it with belief that we can get something.
"Then there's another big game at Southampton that we will be going looking to win."
For Reading, the future looks bleak unless they can improve considerably on a return of just nine points from their first 16 games during the second half of the campaign, although manager Brian McDermott, who is hoping for a January cash injection from owner Anton Zingarevich, is convinced they can do just that.
He said: "That's what we have done over the past two seasons - three seasons, actually - so we have got to do that again.
"We know the level we are playing at. We have come up short tonight but we have had a run of five games, four away from home, which is never easy, especially in this division.
"We have to look ahead now, re-group and everybody at the club has to stick together and move on to the next game, which is against Arsenal on Monday night."