JACK ROSS was delighted to see his bold selection calls pay off as Sunderland took a major step towards securing automatic promotion with a 2-0 win over Doncaster Rovers.

With Barnsley and Portsmouth having won prior to Sunderland’s game kicking off, it was imperative Ross’ side claimed all three points, and first-half strikes from Lewis Morgan and Charlie Wyke ensured they continue to have a top-two finish in their own hands. They remain two points behind Barnsley, but will be guaranteed promotion if they win their remaining four games.

Yesterday’s composed performance was a world away from the error-strewn display that resulted in a 5-4 defeat to Coventry in their previous outing, and Ross’ decision to replace both of his centre-halves was thoroughly vindicated.

Jimmy Dunne and Alim Ozturk replaced Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin, and combined to secure a first clean sheet in four matches. As a result, there is every chance they will continue alongside each other when Sunderland return to action at Peterborough United on Monday.

“We decided quite early in the week the team we were going to play, and it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction from last weekend,” said Ross. “Jack and Tom have played a lot of minutes this season and have played a big part in us having a good season. Last weekend was the first time they’d played together on a losing team, which is remarkable.

“They’ve put a lot into the season, and sometimes you make a call not just on the performance level but how draining it is mentally. Jimmy and Alim have continued to do things properly when they've been out of the team and have deserved the opportunity. All you can ask then is that they take it, and I thought they both did that.”

Ozturk’s performance was especially notable given that he was making his first senior appearance of any description since January’s Checkatrade trophy win over Manchester City Under-23s.

The Turkish defender has been Sunderland’s fourth-choice centre-half for the majority of the season, but could now find himself playing a crucial role in the most important fortnight of the campaign.

“I’m pleased for him from an individual perspective because of how he’s conducted himself,” said Ross. “He’s popular in the changing room and he’s worked hard every day.

“When I made the decision to play him, I spoke to him early in the week about it. I have worked with him before (at Hearts), so I know what he’s capable of.

“To an extent, his limited opportunities at times have been because the team’s continued to produce results over the course of the season. I knew he would handle it because he’s played in big games before, it was just physically a big ask and you saw that towards the end of the game when he was fatigued a little bit.”

Ross also reserved special praise for Charlie Wyke, who led the line impressively despite having been a major doubt until a couple of minutes before kick-off.

Wyke scored one goal and set up the other, but was throwing up in the dressing room after completing his warm-up as he battled against an illness.

“He wasn’t feeling good before the game,” said Ross. “He had a migraine and he was sick in the changing room. I actually didn't think he would play. Kaz Sterling went out and warmed up because I thought we would have to make that change to the team-sheet in the warm-up, but he started to feel a little bit better.

“He’s shown what we thought he would do when we brought him to the club. That's the reason we brought him in.”

Ross will now turn his attention to Monday’s trip to Peterborough, whose own promotion hopes are still intact after they claimed a 1-1 draw at Fleetwood yesterday.

The pressure is set to become even more intense over the next two weeks, but Ross remains confident his players are capable of handling whatever is thrown at them.

“It’s very obvious to say that at this stage of the season, it’s all about results so I would have taken any sort of win,” he added. “But to win and play in the manner we did against a good team is very pleasing on the back of losing for the first time at home. It was sore for us, so to respond as we did was very pleasing.”