SUNDERLAND’S backroom team think the creative spark of Aiden McGeady was always going to be a big miss when he picked up an injury, even if the rest of the squad has shown a promotion charge can still be maintained.

The Irish winger has missed the last couple of games with an ankle knock he sustained after scoring one of the three goals in the Black Cats’ 3-0 win at Accrington on April 3.

In his absence Sunderland have followed up a victory at Rochdale by picking up the point against Burton in midweek that lifted them up into an automatic promotion spot for the first time since early December.

A player of McGeady’s quality was always going to be hard to make up for at League One level and he remains a major doubt for tomorrow’s visit of play-off hopefuls Coventry City to the Stadium of Light.

“You’ve seen Aiden’s goals and assists in the last two or three months and how well he’s played,” said Sunderland’s assistant manager James Fowler.

“He was named in the team of the year for League One by his fellow professionals so it’s a big miss for us when he’s not playing but it’s up to someone else to take that opportunity and squad-wise we’re in a decent place to hopefully not miss him too much. But I would rather he was back playing and in the squad than not.”

McGeady has scored 14 goals this season and hit seven of those since the turn of February, so replacing such an in-form player is tough and Jack Ross, the Sunderland manager, has had to come up with a way to set the team up without him.

Lewis Morgan and George Honeyman have been asked to play on the left and right of a narrower midfield after Ross realised a switch was required to help front two Charlie Wyke and Will Grigg.

Fowler said: “We’ve tweaked the formation a little bit playing two strikers and it’s important we get service to them from wide areas, and Aiden’s good at that. Lewis Morgan’s come in and George can play off that side. Kaz Sterling did well the other night too, I thought, when he came on in a wide area between the full-back and centre-back.

“We’ve got players who can fill in. Are they as experienced as Aiden? Probably not, but they’ve showed they’re capable of filling in when needed.

“He’s not trained yet but that was always going to be the case. We’ve just been monitoring him and trying to give him the best opportunity to be involved at the weekend. That will be decided over the next 24 hours.”

McGeady has beenn touch and go for each of the last two matches and with Sunderland edging into the top two and boasting a game in hand without him then it has not felt the right time to risk him unnecessarily.

“It’s just making sure we don’t rush him back and give him a setback,” added the Sunderland No 2. “We’re focused on the next game but we know there’s still games to come and we don’t want him out for a longer period of time so it’s important he’s right and the medical department say he’s ready to go.

“It’s possibly been helped by form but with Goochy being out it’s probably similar-type players in the wider areas that we’re missing so we’d like to have him back sooner rather than later but the manager will find alternative ways to play and alternative players in that position.”

Sunderland now have six matches remaining to see the promotion push through to a successful conclusion in Ross’ first season in charge.

Another forward, Chris Maguire, has restarted light training this week, but Sunderland are still likely to be without him tomorrow. Midfielder Dylan McGeouch is missing with the abdominal strain collected against Burton in midweek.