Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford and Patrick van Aanholt have been chosen by Garth Crooks for his BBC Sport team of the week.
Both Black Cats players were integral in their side’s 1-0 win over Watford at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) December 19, 2016
The three points took the North East club off the bottom of the table – and within one point of safety.
Two of Sunderland’s key players this season again stood out from the rest in a tough clash during a cold afternoon on Wearside.
England under-21 goalkeeper Pickford made a number of fine saves throughout a tense 90 minutes.
A flying leap into the air to stop an early fizzing long-range shot by Watford’s Nordin Amrabat was enough to get the Stadium of Light faithful on their feet in applause.
But his punch in the heat of battle, followed by the youngster’s saves from Daryl Janmaat and then Odion Ighalo were crucial in keeping only his side’s second clean sheet of the season.
Left-back Van Aanholt had a similarly influential role in the Black Cats’ third win in five, with the match-defining goal just after half time.
Team-mate Jermain Defoe spotted the Holland international’s surging run into the box and the 26-year-old’s sublime finish was just reward for his attacking efforts.
His winning goal against the Hornets may prove vital in David Moyes’ bid to survive the drop come the end of this campaign.
Both players have been imperative in Sunderland’s good run of form recently and with an important period coming up, they will have to be at the top of their game if the Wearsiders want to take anything from their next few fixtures.