CHARLIE WYKE’S change of fortunes has delighted everyone at Sunderland who has known he would become a hit after an impressive return to form on Wearside.

While many of his team-mates disappointed, particularly in a defensive sense, in last weekend’s nine-goal defeat to Coventry City at the Stadium of Light, Wyke was arguably the best man in a red and white shirt.

As well as scoring against the Sky Blues, he also set up a goal and his general play in the final third smacked of the player who Jack Ross moved to sign from Bradford for £1m last summer.

That was Wyke’s second goal in his last three matches, but his performances have also been much improved overall since emerging from the bench against Walsall and Portsmouth in the Checkatrade Trophy to set up a couple of goals.

Fans sang his name at Accrington when he started on April 3 and he has looked decent against Rochdale, Burton and Coventry since. He will look to continue in that frame of mind for the promotion run-in.

He should keep his place against fellow promotion contenders Doncaster on Friday and Sunderland’s assistant manager James Fowler has described the effort that has gone in to getting him back to his best.

“It’s sometimes easier with strikers because you can always practice finishing morning, noon and night,” said Fowler. “Myself and John Potter have done stuff with Charlie and the strikers across the board.

“There’s a lot of individuals but Charlie’s probably a prime example where when he wasn’t involved we were still working hard with him because he’d shown previously he was still capable of scoring goals in this league and sometimes confidence can play a part in it but recently we’ve seen him in a good place mentally and physically.”

Wyke’s problems started when, after arriving from Bradford with a knee injury, he only made three more appearances after scoring on his debut against Oxford on September 1 before suffering a further knee injury against Burton a fortnight later.

Ever since he has battled to return to fitness and then form as other more minor injuries contributed to a difficult first campaign on Wearside.

However, he looks fresh and hungry to make up for that on the sidelines and Ross knows the powerful front-man could be a huge factor in the final five games because he offers something different to the other forwards at the club.

Fowler added: “I thought he played really well in the Accrington game and didn’t manage to score but the reception he got off the fans as he came off was a little reminder of how much they appreciate him as well. They’ve seen him work hard for the team and be a goal threat.

“It’s great for him. It’s been a stop-start season but the manager’s always said he’s a big player for us whenever he plays.”

Sunderland have slipped back down to third in the race for an automatic promotion spot and can’t afford another slip-up with Portsmouth and Barnsley showing how capable they are of finishing second.

There have been a number of injuries for Ross to overcome, which is a very hard time for Sunderland given they include experienced players such as Lee Cattermole and Aiden McGeady.

Chris Maguire could well return to contention for the visit of Doncaster or the trip to Peterborough on Easter Monday, but Ross has shown he has been willing to use his squad to the full.

Fowler said: “It’s just up to the rest of the staff, whether that’s the coaching staff, the medical or the sports science, making sure the rest of the guys are up to speed and we feel we have been able to do that. Whoever plays will be ready.”