PHIL PARKINSON has paid tribute to his Sunderland players for putting themselves back firmly in the promotion mix, but urged them to make sure they finish off the job at the end of the season.

After news that defender Bailey Wright, on loan from Bristol City for the rest of the season, could miss the rest of the campaign with the ankle ligament damage sustained at Oxford United last week, the Black Cats boss is considering options available to replace him in the squad.

He is currently assessing the free agent market as well and considering offering a short-term playing contract to first team coach Andrew Taylor, who he had at Bolton last season, to make up the numbers and compete for a place.

But whoever is signed up to provide an extra defensive option will join a playing staff that has put Sunderland right in the thick of the race for an automatic promotion spot.

The Wearsiders face Bristol Rovers at the Stadium of Light on Saturday just three points shy of the top two, Coventry and Rotherham, after suffering one defeat from the last 13 matches in League One.

Parkinson said: “There is no let-up in terms of performance levels, drop in standards on a match day or in training. We all know that here.

“Everyone in the top eight is on good runs, we have to concentrate on ourselves. I am very pleased with the result at Oxford, I am pleased with training and we need to take that into the weekend game again.

“You have to believe you can get there, after the recent run there is a possibility. A few months ago if we were told we were in the mix, we would have been delighted with that. It is up to us now to be as good as anyone else before the end of the season.

“I have detected since I came that there is a group who are driven, want to be successful. I had a squad here I wanted to enlarge and we have done that.

“We now have a squad driving towards the one goal. The lads here last year was a tough end, they will be remembered for quite a time if they get this club and running again.”

With the exception of Wright’s blow – and he is staying at the Academy of Light for his recovery rather than head back to Bristol City early – Sunderland have no fresh problems ahead of facing Rovers tomorrow.

Alim Ozturk and the fit again Joel Lynch are both fighting it out for the right to replace Wright at the heart of the defence and the former impressed when he was introduced from the bench at the Kassam Stadium last weekend.

Parkinson added: “Alim was playing well before we left him out, he took is professionally, took it well and he is popular in the squad, among players and the supporters.

“Alim has been left out before and recognised when he was asked to come back in he had to do well. He has done that. Joel Lynch is back in training as well. We have lost one player but there is now an opportunity for someone else to come in and do well.”

Sunderland will welcome Bristol Rovers to the Stadium of Light looking to preserve a strong home record. Even though the victories have not been as regular as many would have expected there throughout the season, there has not been a loss there since November 26 - the only defeat on home turf this season in the league.

Parkinson said: “It is as two fold thing, the supporters have responded to the effort on the pitch. The Ipswich game, it took us until towards the end to get the goal, but the supporters stayed behind us. The players enjoy that environment.”