ONE down, four to go. It wasn’t quite a ‘Great Friday’ for Sunderland, with Barnsley and Portsmouth winning earlier in the afternoon, but it was certainly a very Good one as Jack Ross’ side banished the memories of last weekend’s horror show against Coventry to remain within two points of the automatic-promotion positions. With a game in hand, they are still guaranteed to go up if they win their remaining four matches.

Lewis Morgan’s seventh-minute strike set them on the way to their latest victory, with Charlie Wyke capping a fine line-leading display with a second goal shortly after the half-hour mark.

Sunderland’s attacking prowess enabled them to cause problems throughout, with the talismanic Aiden McGeady once again central to their success, but in the wake of last weekend’s defensive capitulation, the most notable element of yesterday’s victory was a first home clean sheet since the start of March.

Whereas they had been sliced open at will six days earlier, Sunderland were watertight despite facing a Doncaster side that remain in the play-off positions. Having now beaten Rovers twice this season, it goes without saying that the Black Cats will be desperate to avoid a third and fourth meeting next month.

That scenario cannot be completely discounted given the form of the teams on either side of Sunderland in the table, but unlike the Coventry defeat, this was a performance that suggests the Wearsiders have the mettle needed to claim maximum points in the games that remain. Crucially, Ross now also knows he has the personnel to see things through.

There was always going to be a response to last weekend’s 5-4 embarrassment, and it came in the shape of Ross’ team selection. Having erred repeatedly six days earlier, Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin were both dropped, with the latter finding himself axed from the matchday squad entirely. It remains to be seen whether we will see him again this season.

Jimmy Dunne was handed a first start for seven matches, while Alim Ozturk returned to a League One starting line-up for the first time since early September. Suffice to say, the recalls were more than vindicated by the deserved clean sheet.

Ross’ other changes saw Lee Cattermole and Aiden McGeady return, and it was hardly a surprise that the latter was involved in Sunderland’s seventh-minute opener. Of all the variables that could influence the Black Cats’ fortunes in the remaining four matches, McGeady’s fitness is perhaps the single most important factor.

The Irishman has been Sunderland’s stand-out performer for most of the season, and when he delivered a typically pinpoint cross from the left, Wyke rose superbly to nod the ball down for Morgan. The Celtic loanee steadied himself before drilling home a crisp low finish from the edge of the area.

Wyke was preferred to Will Grigg, and while the number nine might lack his fellow striker’s predatory instincts, his muscularity and aerial prowess make him an ideal target man.

Doncaster’s defenders struggled to deal with him all afternoon, and while his tenth-minute break from the halfway line came to nothing when McGeady’s subsequent cross was cleared, he was able to celebrate his third league goal of the season shortly after the half-hour mark.

Morgan had seen a drive deflected over moments before Wyke doubled Sunderland’s lead, and while the home side’s second goal owed much to some calamitous goalkeeping from Marko Marosi, it was thoroughly justified on the balance of play.

Max Power swung over a cross from the left, and after Dunne beat Marosi’s kamikaze charge from his line to win a flick on, Wyke was left with the simple task of steering into an empty net.

Doncaster’s attacking to that stage had been fitful at best, and whereas Sunderland had been unable to cope with Coventry’s counter-attacking, Cattermole’s return ensured there were not the same wide-open spaces for Rovers to exploit. Grant Leadbitter has unquestionably added something since signing from Middlesbrough, but Cattermole is a proven master at plugging midfield gaps.

He did the simple things extremely effectively, closing down Doncaster’s midfielders to cut off the supply line to the dangerous John Marquis, and while Jon McLaughlin was forced to produce an excellent punch under pressure when Ben Whiteman crossed midway through the first half, the Sunderland goalkeeper was not really tested until the very last kick of the first half.

Danny Andrew drilled in a 25-yard free-kick, and while McLaughlin was beaten, the ball rebounded off the base of the post. Even at that stage, Doncaster probably sensed their race had been run.

Six minutes into the second half, and the same upright was rattling again, this time thanks to the efforts of Bryan Oviedo. The Sunderland full-back surged beyond George Honeyman on the overlap, and after breaking into the area, drilled a low shot across the face of goal and off the outside of the post.

Having dominated the first half, the hosts showed no sign of letting up after the interval, with McGeady firing over after drifting across the face of the area and the consistently-impressive Wyke forcing Marosi into a smart low save after turning neatly in the box.