AIDEN McGEADY is delighted to have played a part in kick-starting Will Grigg’s Sunderland career – and is confident his fellow forward will spearhead a successful promotion push in the remaining two-and-a-half months of the season.

Grigg opened his Black Cats account on his fourth appearance since a deadline-day move from Wigan on Tuesday, but the striker might still be waiting for his first Sunderland goal had it not been for McGeady’s selflessness.

It looked as though McGeady was set to step up when Sunderland were awarded a 66th-minute penalty against Gillingham, but rather than putting the ball on the spot himself, the winger handed it to Grigg, who had missed gilt-edged chances in his previous two outings.

“Will wanted the ball, and it crossed my mind that he’d not scored,” said McGeady. “That’s important for a striker. I wanted him to score to get himself off the mark.”

“For me, the biggest thing is us getting out of this division, it’s not about me scoring more than anyone else,” said McGeady, who has now netted three goals in his last five league games.

“But I wanted him to score to get himself off the mark and get that monkey off his back. He’d had some chances and hadn’t scored yet, he was a big signing who cost a lot of money and whatever. I want him to score (that penalty) and I want him to score 20 goals this season.

“It’s not about me scoring more goals than anyone else so I was like, ‘No problem – score, get yourself off the mark’. It’s better for the team if he gets himself off the mark and that’s the way I look at it.”

Grigg’s goalscoring record at League One level suggests Tuesday’s successful strike should be the first of many in the remaining 14 league games, and while McGeady does not want to pile too much pressure on his new team-mate.

The Irish international had allowed Will Grigg to take an earlier penalty to help the deadline-day signing get off the mark team-mate, he sees no reason why he should not be capable of ending the season in double figures.

“Strikers are judged by goals,” he added. “If you look at his performances, you’d come away from the games saying, ‘Griggy did well’, but the headline will probably be that he missed a couple of chances.

He scored on Tuesday and the headline will be that he’s off the mark. “Hopefully, now that’s the springboard for him. Hopefully, he can be that guy to get us ten, 15 goals between now and the end of the season.”

While Sunderland remain the only club in England’s top four divisions to have scored in every league game this season, Grigg’s performances in front of goal are likely to prove crucial as they attempt to bridge the four-point gap that currently separates them from the automatic promotion positions.

Josh Maja scored 15 league goals prior to joining Bordeaux last month, and while some supporters might have had reservations about the quality of the youngster’s all-round game, his effectiveness inside the 18-yard box was unarguable.

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Charlie Wyke has not really looked like replicating Maja’s goalscoring tally, Kazaiah Sterling is completely untried at senior level, and while Chris Maguire made a bright start to Tuesday’s game before a calf injury forced him off, the evidence of the first six months of the season suggests he is not an out-and-out striker.

Hence the importance of Grigg’s performances.

“Regardless of what you thought of Maja’s all-round game, it’s hard to take that many goals out of your team midway through the season,” said McGeady.

“If you get him a chance in the box, he scores. He’s an unbelievable finisher.

“Griggy’s a different kind of striker who probably runs more channels than Maj, different type of hold-up play.

“In the last couple of games, he’s just been unlucky, he’s not got that goal. “He had a few chances and it just didn’t fall properly for him, but now he’s scored, which is great.”

While some of the personal pressure on Grigg’s shoulders might have lifted, the collective onus on Sunderland’s squad to keep on performing is only going to build.

With neither Barnsley nor Portsmouth winning on Tuesday, the battle at the top of the table has closed up once again, and while McGeady accepts Sunderland’s size and status brings certain benefits, he also acknowledges his team-mates have to prove they can handle the level of expectation that inevitably attaches itself to the Black Cats.

“I understand that, on paper, we’re probably the strongest team in the division, and when you’re not winning games, everyone inside the club, not just the fans, feels the pressure,” he said.

“Everyone wants to be promoted, that’s where we want to be. But sometimes you have to be patient.

“I suppose it takes a certain amount (of character), but if you don’t have that, you probably won’t play at this club.

“There are players in that dressing room who probably have aspirations to play at higher levels than this, but I’ve said it before, if you’re struggling out there, you’ve no chance. Without being too blunt, that’s the reality.”