JACK ROSS is convinced Sunderland’s players have the right camaraderie to finish off the League One promotion challenge in style – even if they will be playing catch up for the next few weeks at least.

The Black Cats fell further behind in the race for the Championship over the weekend when leaders Luton and second-placed Barnsley both won again.

Even Portsmouth, who Ross’ team face in the Checkatrade Trophy final on Sunday, climbed above them into third by defeating Shrewsbury Town.

Sunderland are five points behind Barnsley and ten shy of Luton, after the Tyke and the Hatters defeated Walsall and Doncaster, respectively, on Saturday, but the men from Wearside do have two games in hand.

Ross’ team will have an extra one too when they head for Accrington on Wednesday week but he is not concerned and instead is looking forward to a trip to Wembley.

That day there will be a number of disappointed players when some will have to be left out of the team and others from the match-day squad altogether.

But Ross isn’t overly concerned because he believes the mentality within his playing staff has suggested so far that there will be minimal disruption to the greater cause when they return to league duty.

The Northern Echo:

He said: “The pleasing thing for me is we’ve got to this point in March with a squad that has remained together.

“Some have been more frustrated than others in terms of game-time but to get to this stage and not have any issues in terms of how they go about things – I don’t mean not being disappointed or frustrated, or coming to me to speak about it, I’ve never had an issue with that, I just mean how they’ve trained. It’s never dipped below the standards they need to be at.

“When you head into March/April there’s no reason to believe that will suddenly become an issue. I’ve got a full squad that are ready to go if called upon and I think we’ve seen that in recent games. There have been players who have come into the team and by and large they have looked hungry to try and stay in it.”

The former St Mirren boss insists those left despondent by not appearing at Wembley should remember the number of vital games that are just around the corner.

Ross said: “There’s big incentives because they know there’s a lot of exciting games coming up for us and what we sustained physically at Wycombe has opened up opportunities and we also have to weigh up the demands.

“Bristol Rovers away, Wycombe away and Barnsley away have been tough. We’ve spent a lot of time travelling around, returning in the early hours and there’s the demands physically of tough games for different reasons. We’ll assess things.”