Jamaal Lascelles told of his pride after leading Newcastle United to their “biggest win of the season”.
Rafa Benitez’s side beat Leicester City 2-1 on Saturday to move up to 10th in the Premier League table.
Jonjo Shelvey and Ayoze Perez were on target at the King Power Stadium.
The result, celebrated by Lascelles and his team-mates in front of the club’s 3,200 travelling fans, all but secured Newcastle’s top-flight status with six games left to play.
“It was a massive win – probably our biggest win of the season to be honest, going away from home and winning when we’re really trying to pull away from the rest of the pack in terms of the bottom six or seven, and we’ve done that,” said captain Lascelles.
“And, of course, the other results went our way.
“A lot of people will say we’re safe. Mathematically we’re not, so we just need to keep going to the end of the season and see how far we can push, because the boys were excellent from start to finish.”
United have now won their last three league games, but Lascelles insists that there’s no complacency in the dressing room ahead of Sunday’s home game against Arsenal.
“The feeling around the place, in training and before the game, there’s definitely a real confidence – it’s not complacency,” said the 24-year-old.
“You can tell when it’s that (confidence), and when you feel that way, luck comes your way. I thought we were on the front foot from start to finish.
“We made life tough for them and stopped the ball in behind for Jamie Vardy. It was disappointing to give a goal away, but the boys and the fans were excellent.”
Shelvey opened the scoring in the first half with a superb goal, and Perez doubled Newcastle’s lead with a stunning second-half strike.
“I thought it might take us to show the character and step up to take the game by two hands, and Jonjo led the way in that sense with his goal,” said Lascelles, who was booked for confronting Harry Maguire after the Leicester defender lashed out at Dwight Gayle.
“He’s been waiting for that to happen, and it couldn’t have happened in a more important game, and Ayoze Perez showed resilience to chase the ball down and he was causing problems all game. I thought, overall, right from our goalkeeper to the front two, we were on our game.”
Lascelles says the team is now looking up the table.
“If someone had told us we’d be on 38 points with six games to go, we’d have snapped their hand off,” said Lascelles. “The only place we’re looking now is up – making sure we get safe. We’re not going to be taking our foot off the gas. Some teams, when they get safe, if they’ve got nothing to play for, they will be on the beach with three or four games to go.
“But we won’t be – we’re going to take it right to the last game trying to push for places in the table, because it sets a statement. On a personal and a collective note, it’s an excellent achievement.”
Lascelles says it’s “easy” to captain the team – thanks to Benitez and his team-mates.
He said: “It’s an excellent achievement. The boys, the fans and the manager have made it really easy for me.
“They have put everything in place and I’m playing with some excellent players who give their all for the badge. The fans are really supportive, which brings a lot of confidence, and the manager shows us so much trust. It feels as though there’s not much we can do wrong.
“I definitely feel like our hard work over the whole season is paying off now.”