JACK ROSS is confident Sunderland’s patched-up performers will continue to confound the pain barrier in order to fire the club to automatic promotion in the final four games of the season.

Sunderland head to Peterborough United this afternoon on what looks like being a pivotal day in the race for the Championship.

By the time the Black Cats kick off at London Road, they will know how Portsmouth, who are currently level on points in the League One table, have fared in their lunch-time kick-off against Coventry City. At the same time that Sunderland are taking on Peterborough, second-placed Barnsley will be facing Plymouth Argyle at Home Park.

The action continues to come thick and fast, with Ross admitting he will have to field a number of players who have been struggling with knocks in recent weeks.

Aiden McGeady is unable to train at the moment because of an ongoing ankle problem, Will Grigg has been struggling against injury throughout his Sunderland career, and both Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire are easing their way back to full fitness after lengthy spells on the sidelines.

Max Power was unable to complete Friday’s win over Doncaster Rovers after suffering a knock in the final five minutes, but Ross insists it is not unusual for players to be suffering from injury issues at this stage of the season. With so much to play for, the Sunderland boss is hoping adrenaline will get his squad through.

“If you are one of those players who has played a lot of games and minutes, then the chances of you being pain or injury free at this stage of the season, it is not usually the case,” said the Sunderland boss, whose side are guaranteed to finish in the top two if they win their remaining four games. “A lot of them patch themselves up and get ready to go again.

“The adrenaline, being involved in these types of games, the atmosphere and the significance of the matches is what players need. A lot of them have experienced it and want more of it.

“If Charlie (Wyke), for example, looked as if he couldn’t have played on Friday then he wouldn’t have, but there is an element that while he had been ill, I’m sure the adrenaline he feels would have helped get him through it.”

Friday’s victory banished the memory of the previous weekend’s home defeat to Coventry City, and was essential with both Barnsley and Portsmouth having won earlier in the day.

Sunderland saw off a Doncaster side currently filling the final play-off spot, and this afternoon they find themselves taking on the team that are hoping to dislodge Rovers from a top-six position.

Peterborough sit seventh after tailing off after an extremely strong start, and while Darren Ferguson’s side have been unable to maintain their early momentum, they are still involved in the promotion picture given they trail Doncaster by four points but have a game in hand on their main play-off rivals.

They are unbeaten in their last four games, and would have been in an even better position had they not conceded a stoppage-time equaliser at Fleetwood Town on Friday.

“We knew we had a tough schedule in April, and also that we were coming up against difficult opponents,” said Ross, who watched his side play out a 2-2 draw with Peterborough in the reverse fixture at the Stadium of Light in October. “But you look at the run-in for all the teams and there are no easy games, none of them have easy games.

“We know we are going to a team that has a lot to play for as well, there is a certain amount of pressure on them, they are at home. They had an opportunity to close the gap further if they hadn’t conceded late in the game (on Friday).

“Preparation time is tight for us, but we regrouped and started that prep on Saturday morning and have got ready to go again.

“We look forward to it, the players enjoyed the Doncaster win and it was a nice way for them to respond to last week.”

Ross will have to decide whether to tinker with the side that returned to winning ways on Friday. It will be especially interesting to see what he does at centre-half, with Alim Ozturk and Jimmy Dunne having come together to record a much-needed clean sheet three days ago. Ross could well opt to keep the partnership intact even though Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin will both be hoping to secure a start.

Maguire will come into contention after having been an unused substitute against Doncaster, while Grigg will also be hoping to return to the starting line-up after his demotion to the bench on Friday.

“We will assess what is best for the game, alongside with who is right physically,” said Ross. “We have some that are patched up and getting through games.

“You also temper that at this stage of the season with players being determined to keep playing, they want to play because they know the significance of the game and want to contribute to us having a successful season.”

Power’s injury is nothing serious, and Ross is hoping the midfielder will pass a late fitness test in order to be involved this afternoon.

“It was just an impact from the tackle at the end of the game, so I would imagine he would be okay,” he said. “It is a quick turnaround, so that can affect it, but we will see how the players are.”

Sunderland (possible, 4-2-3-1): McLaughlin; O’Nien, Ozturk, Dunne, Oviedo; Cattermole, Leadbitter; Morgan, Maguire, McGeady; Wyke.