Sunderland defeated Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park.
The Black Cats have largely been dreadful this season, yet on Monday night they stifled Palace and got their just rewards when Jermain Defoe profited on a Scott Dann error to fire in a late winner.
While it wasn’t a vintage attacking display, Sam Allardyce’s men looked assured throughout and BBC pundit Claridge feels the performance stands Sunderland in good stead for the challenges ahead.
“Forget the scoreline - have a look at the Sunderland performance. Does that encourage you for the road ahead? It certainly does,” Claridge told BBC Radio Five Live.
“They got the system right - and it does not always work when you have three central defenders with two wing-backs. Van Aanholt and Billy Jones were up and down again and again.
“I imagine they have been working at this a lot over the last couple of weeks.”
Sunderland set up in a rather unconventional 3-5-2 formation, a tactic Allardyce put in place in order to counter the obvious threat from Palace’s wide men.
It worked to perfection as John O’Shea and Sebastian Coates covered their wing-backs well and doubled up on Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie, depriving them of space to manoeuvre.
While this sort of system won’t be able to work every week, it demonstrated Allardyce’s intelligence in nullifying his opponents’ strengths and taking advantage of their weaknesses.
The victory lifts the Black Cats above Bournemouth and to within one point of rivals Newcastle United.