ADAM MATTHEWS thinks the latest Sunderland point can be treated as another step towards a Championship return ahead of a weekend when Wearside hopes to edge closer to League One’s automatic promotion spots.

The Black Cats had looked to reduce the four point deficit to second-placed Barnsley on Tuesday night only to be left facing an even more difficult task at Oakwell when the conditions were, according to manager Jack Ross, “as bad they have faced this season”.

With the wind swirling and the rain beating down on the surface, Sunderland – who have announced they have sold their allocation of almost 40,000 for the Checkatrade Trophy final later this month – struggled to pose enough of a threat to secure the victory required to close the gap on the Tykes.

But, knowing how Barnsley had the chances in the first half to have extended their lead over Sunderland, there was actually satisfaction they have not lose any ground going into the final ten matches of the season.

Matthews said: “They’re a good team, they’re above us at the minute, but the good thing is we didn’t lose. In the conditions it’s not a bad result for us. We kept a clean sheet and it keeps our unbeaten run going. All in all, we’re happy with a point.”

Sunderland are unbeaten in their last 15 League One fixtures, a run of form that dates back to losing at Portsmouth on December 22. Inclusive of cup competitions, it actually stands at 18 games.

When the final whistle blew at Barnsley it was the first time this campaign Sunderland had not scored in a fixture, and the hope will be to return to winning ways against Walsall on Saturday when they will aim to preserve an unbeaten home record.

Matthews and Co know they could do with the weather conditions being a lot better than what they encountered in South Yorkshire.

The Welsh defender said: “Even if the conditions had been nice, they’re a really good team so we knew it was going to be a tough game.

“I think they’re probably happy with a point, we’re probably happy with a point and we both move on from there. It’s a positive for us that we keep our unbeaten run going. I think the boys grafted really hard and we’re pleased with the result.”

Matthews has been back in the side of late after missing the majority of February having fall out of favour, with Reece James and Luke O’Nien preferred in the full-back slots. He was back in the team at Barnsley because of James’ injury.

Now Matthews faces the challenge of staying in the team, particularly with the prospect of a Wembley outing on the horizon on March 31. It promises to be a huge occasion, with Portsmouth also selling 30,000 to go alongside the near 40,000 who will be there from Wearside.

Having initially sold tickets to season card holders last Friday, the final Wembley tickets were snapped up earlier yesterday.