AFTER helping Sunderland take another significant step in the race to the Championship, defender Jack Baldwin thinks reclaiming a top two spot for the first time in five months has sent out a message to the rest of the division.

The Black Cats still have a game in hand on the team they leapfrogged on Tuesday night, Barnsley, and have a point advantage too, so suddenly promotion at the first attempt is looking more likely than it has in recent months.

Sunderland have shown strength of character since losing at Wembley in the Checkatrade Trophy by claiming seven points from a possible nine, even though the draw with Burton was not exactly the result they wanted on home turf.

But having not lost in League One since December and retaken an automatic promotion spot, there is even more belief now within the ranks that they can stay there for the rest of the campaign.

“It definitely makes a difference being in there now,” said Baldwin. “Other teams will look at the table and see we have a game in hand as well.

“We're in a strong position and while it would have been nice if we'd put the three points on the board, you look at the position we're in and if you ask would we take that, I think we would, yeah.

“It's important we focus on ourselves and do our job. What other teams want to do, whether they look at the league or focus on themselves is up to them but if they do check the league it's always going to be in the back of their minds where we're sitting with a game in hand which hopefully we can make full use of.”

Nigel Clough, the Burton manager, suggested afterwards that Sunderland would finish the job off because he felt that the club’s huge support is strong enough to see them over the line.

Sunderland now face Coventry – whose play-off chances have faded in recent weeks - on Saturday at the Stadium of Light when there is expected to be another 30,000 crowd trying to drive Jack Ross’ side to victory.

Baldwin said: “With the support we've got at home, you can hear the roar of the fans even when things aren't going your way. They're urging you to do well and for other teams to come and be in the midst of that, it can be daunting.

“But at the same time, we've got to focus on our job and when we're out there at home we need to make sure we make the pitch as big as possible in possession and that's what we're trying to do. On the flip side, as soon as we concede possession we need to be as narrow as we can and make it hard for teams to come through.”

It was Baldwin’s header against Burton that secured a point in another sign that there are goals across the Sunderland squad.

He added: “There's been loads of goalscorers this year from all over the park so it's important for us as defenders when we get set pieces to go and try our luck. Grant said to me after the first corner, 'I put it right across the front post and no one was there! Make sure you're there!'

“The second one he put far, but the third one I got on the end of. Grant Leadbitter's been great and he's spot on with his deliveries every time. As defenders we've just got to make sure we're attacking it with good timing to hopefully get on the end of it more often than not.”

While Sunderland are proud of the fact they have scored in every league game this season, they also know that they have conceded too many – often leaving them with a fight on their hands to come from behind.

Baldwin said: “We always know that going forward we're going to make opportunities to score, so it's frustrating that we can't keep the door shut at the other end, which for defenders is our bread and butter.

“It's frustrating in that aspect, but we always know that we'll create opportunities to score. We created a few on Tuesday and it's a shame we only scored one.

“We find ourselves in a good position. It's frustrating not to take all three with the opportunities we created against Burton, but at the same time we let a few opportunities go at the other end. Obviously off the back of a disappointing Sunday last week at Wembley it was important we bounced back with the two wins and a point.

“In this league there's a lot of games to play and with the cup competitions, obviously we found ourselves going right to the end of the Checkatrade and that's always nice.

“But we've got a good enough and big enough squad to rotate and freshen up. The people that have come in when others have been rested have done a great job and that just shows what we've got in the stands as well.”

Sunderland will be keeping an eye on Aiden McGeady and Lee Cattermole over the next couple of days in the hope of seeing them return to action against Coventry.

It would seem Dylan McGeouch, who hobbled off with an abdominal problem on Tuesday, will join Lynden Gooch as the most recent additions to the treatment room.