Saints can go into Christmas in high spirits if they beat Sunderland at St Mary’s tomorrow.

A win over the Black Cats would see Nigel Adkins’ men enter the festivities with a sense of satisfaction.

After a tough start to the campaign, Saints have come good.

Their record is not dissimilar to Sunderland’s in that they have garnered most of their points from the kind of games they really need to win to keep their heads above water.

Against the top half of the table teams it has been a tougher story.

Saints’ record against the top teams is the worst in the top flight.

But Saints are not going to stay up by beating the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham.

They are going to stay up by beating the likes of Villa, QPR, Newcastle and Reading, and so far they have done just that.

Saints are 13th in the table of results against the teams in the bottom half, and that little statistic is a very big positive right now.

Nobody should be under any illusions as to how tricky the second half of the season will be.

That’s why a win tomorrow is so important.

Saints have already won two winnable home games in recent weeks, keeping clean sheets against Newcastle and Reading.

If they can follow that up with three points against Martin O’Neil’s men at St Mary’s, then they stand in good shape.

There was much talk early in the season about Saints’ undoubtedly tough start to the Premier League programme.

It didn’t go well and it has only been recent times that have seen an upsurge in results, position and confidence.

After Sunderland, however, things get markedly tougher.

At that point Saints face a run of fixtures to the end of the season that sees them face most of the teams around them away from home, and most of the teams that are doing better at St Mary’s.

Saints are in a far better position as a team now, and will surely strengthen still further in January.

That gives them every chance of survival.

But three points against Sunderland feels important.

It might well be that they remain out of the bottom three no matter what the result, but in the context of the season it is bigger than that.

Victory would provide a huge mental boost, and a timely addition to the points tally.

Once tomorrow’s game rolls past, Saints have to travel away to Fulham and Stoke, take on Arsenal at home, Aston Villa away, Everton at home and Manchester United away in the league before the end of January.

That is a really tough run.

It’s not to say Saints cannot get much out of those games. If they continue their current improvement they could do.

But you would not expect them to gather a whole host of points from those matches.

That’s why Sunderland is so important.

Beat them and the base is there to weather the latest bump in the fixture list and not get too downhearted about things if the results are, understandably, a little mixed during that tough period.

Fail to win and you start to pile the pressure on to get points from those hard games to avoid getting cut adrift.

Just think how good the turkey would taste next week with another three points on the board ...