AFTER playing his part in Sunderland's 3-0 win over West Ham United, Adam Johnson believes the Black Cats can now focus on looking up the table rather than over their shoulders.
Johnson scored the second of the Black Cats' three goals at the Stadium of Light on Saturday in what was arguably their best performance of the season.
Although the win doesn't lift Sunderland above 14th place, a six-point cushion now lies between Martin O'Neill's men and the bottom three.
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Only a few weeks ago they were lying precariously close to the relegation places but the gap between the Wearsiders and the top ten is smaller than the one to the bottom three and Johnson believes the side must now focus on looking up rather than down.
"We looked like a really good team," Johnson said. "I hope there'll be more to come in the second half of the season. That's what we're all working towards. If we play like that every week, or most weeks, we're definitely going to pick up points.
"We're nearer the top half than the bottom three now and I think that shows the improvement in recent weeks.
"We beat City, we got a good win away at Southampton and I think things have picked up overall from earlier on in the season."
Johnson formed part of a five-man attack on Saturday, with Seb Larsson, James McClean and the former Manchester City man operating behind Steven Fletcher and Stephane Sessegnon.
Attacking-wise, it was the best O'Neill's men have been all season and Johnson hopes the fans are beginning to see a top offensive team get better and better as games go by.
He said: "We looked threatening and we cut them open so many times, on the whole everything clicked for us.
"We're there to create and try to score goals. There was only Fletch missing from the score sheet today. He's usually got the goals for us. It makes a nice refreshing change for us to help out."
While the likes of Sessegnon, Johnson and Larsson will get the plaudits, the 25-year-old singled out David Vaughan, who continued to impress after starting against Bolton in the FA Cup last weekend.
With potential new signings to add to the squad this month, Johnson believes Vaughan's performances demonstrate the strength in depth in the squad.
"I think Vaughney was the best player on the pitch," Johnson said. "You talk about all the attacking players but it was probably one of the best midfield performances I've seen all season from one of our players.
"I thought he was outstanding, he seemed to be on the end of everything. He was getting up on the counter attack and he was back there defending. I thought he was top class.
"I know I've singled him out but I thought everywhere, everyone's had a massive lift. I don't know whether it was confidence, I don't think we were really lacking in that, but we just needed a performance like that."
Johnson's goal on Saturday took his tally for the season to four. The midfielder has had a tough time since making his £10m switch from Manchester City, but he hopes he can continue to contribute to the side whether it is through goals or assists.
He said: "I got 12 in one season at Middlesbrough but that was in the Championship." "An assist is just as good as a goal for me, as long as I can contribute that is the main thing.
"I think at Man City once players came in and you start coming on as sub, you do get classed as a bit of an impact player even when that's probably not even true. But at the end of the day it is nice to be playing week in week out."