CHARLIE WYKE will have to wait to give Phil Parkinson the boost he is looking for to try and lift Sunderland back into contention for a top two place in League One.

After a four game break from the battle to secure promotion to the Championship, the Black Cats return to action at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon when third-placed Coventry City head to Wearside.

But Sunderland will have to collect three points without Wyke again, after the former Bradford and Middlesbrough man suffered a reaction to stepping up his training earlier in the week and now he faces further time on the sidelines.

The 26-year-old has only played 45 minutes since Parkinson took over - in his first game in charge at leaders Wycombe, when the forward had to be replaced at half-time with the injury.

Wyke’s absence has been a real blow to the manager because he knows how to get the best out of him, having successfully used him to Bradford’s benefit during his time in charge at Valley Parade.

Now Wyke, who is expected to return to action before the end of the year, is having to bide his time after seeing his hopes early in the week of figuring against Coventry dashed.

Parkinson said: “Charlie has tried to push himself but the ankle isn’t quite ready. Nature and the healing process has to take place and he is chomping at the bit to get out there, but the ankle is not quite there.

“It is a blow but we are looking forward to him being back. It’s not quite healing as quickly as we would like. He had a scan this week to check there is no hairline fracture, and that came back clear, but the doctor and medical team says he needs more time.

“Early in the week he was firing, finishing, joining in, that is how close he got. He just felt a bit uncomfortable still. The risk is we put him in when he is not ready and we could lose him longer. I want to make sure when Charlie and Lynden Gooch are back they are back because there is still a long way to go in the season.”

Wyke’s absence means another opportunity for Will Grigg to lead the line, with Marc McNulty also struggling to face one of his former clubs. The alternative options in the final third are playing Duncan Watmore or Benji Kimpioka more through the middle.

Kimpioka was unable to impress when he was given a start in the EFL Trophy against Leicester City’s Under-21s earlier in the month, but the Swedish youngster did show at times last season he had potential to shine.

Parkinson said: “Training time with him has been limited because of the games we have had, he has been away again this week. He has got something different. He has got power, the ability to go past people with the ball, and he has got something. He will get opportunities over the next week or so to play a part.

“The Sunderland fans are desperate for a young player to emerge and be a hero, nothing would give our supporters, myself, more pleasure to see him come off the bench and get a goal. He is capable of it as well. There is no doubt about that and he can lift supporters.”

Whether or not that chance comes against Coventry will be determined by how the game pans out. Sunderland have a number of ex-Sky Blues who could face their old club, with Jordan Willis and Lee Burge set to face the club they left in the summer. Conor McLaughlin is suspended.

“Jordan and Joel Lynch are back available which is good news for us,” said Parkinson, who has Tom Flanagan, Jon McLaughlin and George Dobson available again too.

“They have had injections, the pair of them. Lynch had a nerve in his back which needed one earlier this week, while Jordan had a knee problem he’s been carrying. We have to manage that as we go.

“We have some ex-Coventry boys. I went down to watch them against Rochdale last weekend. it is good to see them live and not just the videos we see. To be there and have a look gives you a good insight.

“I played against them when I was at Bolton early in the season. We drew with them with a young Bolton team. We look to exploit their weaknesses in the team.

“We have looked at Coventry, we think we know how they will play. There is always the balance, how can we negate their strengths? But also how can we exploit their weaknesses. We are looking forward to being back at home again.”

Sunderland’s frustrations have grown again in recent weeks having been knocked out of both the EFL Trophy – courtesy of defeats to Leicester U21s and Scunthorpe – and then the FA Cup replay at Priestfield on Tuesday night. Before those Parkinson had enjoyed a home win in the league against Southend.

“Looking at the Gillingham game in particular, we have to get the balance is right,” he said. “In possession we have to have the belief we can create chances. In the first home games I had we did that. We need to carry on with that theme.

“Performance level is key at the weekend. We have to make sure there is no negativity or lack of desire from the boys, we have to brush it aside. The last couple of home games we have done well and got six points, clean sheets, we have to pick up from there.

“The focus is back on the league now, we have 31 cup finals left and no distractions at all. Every bit of energy in the club has to be focused on the league campaign.

“It seems a long time since we had a league match, disjointed in terms of team selection, Gillingham we had ten players unavailable, you end up being disjointed. It is good we have the boys back, and a few injuries back.

“The crux of the Gillingham game was we should have had it done and dusted in the first game, we had chances to extend the lead, conceded a soft goal which changed the mindset of both teams, we only have ourselves to blame for that.

“Going to Gillingham, for the replay was going to be tough with those we had missing. We have to threaten the goal more than we did which ultimately determines where sides finish in cup competitions and in the league, it’s the end product we all want.”