Bruce targets top-10 finish
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has challenged his players to repeat what they have just achieved and set up a grandstand finish to the season following their 1-0 win over West Ham.
The Black Cats took their tally to 23 points from 16 Barclays Premier League games with victory over the Hammers to leave themselves in seventh place in the table, the position in which they finished in successive campaigns under former boss Peter Reid a decade ago.
"I have always said, we have got to stop being a yo-yo club - that was my immediate aim - and if we can get ourselves into the top 10..." said Bruce.
"Nothing has changed since I came here 18 months ago. We are seventh going into the Christmas period.
"Our immediate aim is to go and mirror what we have just done, take 20-odd points from the next 16 games, and that would set us up very nicely for what should be a nice spring."
Sunderland secured their latest victory courtesy of 20-year-old England international Jordan Henderson's first goal of the season.
They enjoyed much the better of the first half and deservedly took the lead with 34 minutes gone when the midfielder guided Asamoah Gyan's cross past goalkeeper Robert Green. But the Hammers responded after the break and with Scott Parker leading the fightback, they might have dragged themselves back into it.
Carlton Cole fired inches past the post with a 49th-minute shot on the turn, and Victor Obinna struck the outside of the post with 11 minutes remaining as home nerves jangled. However, despite Danny Welbeck passing up a glorious opportunity to make sure of the win five minutes from time, the Black Cats held out.
They are yet to lose a league game at the Stadium of Light this season, and the extension of that record was due in part to the bravery of central defender John Mensah, who played once again nursing the shoulder he dislocated last month.
Bruce said: "To play like he did again and to put himself on the line with his shoulder is quite remarkable really. There are only special players like him can do it. He is playing with a protective harness, but still when he goes over and he gets a bash on it, he is in pain."