CHARLIE WYKE has made a career out of scoring goals in the Football League – and now he could well be the man to fire Sunderland into the Championship.

While there is still plenty of work for head coach Lee Johnson to do to deliver promotion this season, Wyke is doing what he can to keep such hopes alive and kicking.

The 28-year-old’s 14th goal of an already productive season on a personal level was enough to end Sunderland’s wait for a first home League One win since November 3 on Saturday.

His brilliant header from Aiden McGeady’s left-wing cross proved the difference on an afternoon when Sunderland started strongly, edged ahead but then were thankful the Shrews couldn’t find a way to turn possession into an equaliser.

But for Wyke it was another goal, taking his league total to 11 and his overall tally now puts him well on track for overtaking his previous bests during spells with Carlisle United and Bradford City.

In 2016-17, the Middlesbrough academy graduate scored 18 to seal a move to Bradford where, two years later, he found the net 16 times before heading to Wearside.

With 24 league matches remaining this season, Wyke must be confident of not only beating those numbers but hitting the 20 mark for the first time in his career – and his head coach can sense a change in approach from the striker.

Johnson said: “I have enjoyed working with Charlie, he is a good professional, sometimes he does things where you think he has confidence issues, but you shouldn’t be like that as a player.

“If you believe in the process, that’s what I am trying to do to help him, educate him, nurture him, even at 28. He is training consistently, the body is consistent, there’s a lot of Charlie Wyke that is consistent. I only see a bright future for Charlie here. It‘s not easy, he has to keep going, keep getting the chances.

“He could have had six at Wimbledon, he got three. Previously he might have focused on the three misses rather than the three he scored. Now he is starting to focus on the ones he scores.

“Even against Shrewsbury when he closed down the keeper Matjia Sarkic (rounded him and then missed the target), he was bright after it because he was closing down, working hard, holding things up. He did what we needed.”

Wyke has been in and out of the side since arriving in 2019 because of injury and form. The longer he has been at Sunderland the better he has got, with supporters growing in admiration of what he offers the side.

Now he is adding goals to his hold up play in a red and white shirt, that admiration is growing even stronger, and there is every chance he could become the first Sunderland player to hit 20 goals since Darren Bent 11 years ago; albeit in League One rather than the Premier League.

Johnson, who has added midfielder Carl Winchester to his ranks this month, still wants to add another attacker to add to his options. Wyke, it would seem, is not someone he is looking to replace.

The Sunderland boss said: “We need to improve in every area, but if you are talking transfers, we are looking for players with attributes for the final third.

“It’s not necessarily a set player to plug a gap. We want every club in the bag, in terms of a golfing analogy, that’s a good way to describe it.”

Wyke and Aiden O’Brien, who have both scored in the last week, are developing more of an understanding in the attacking third of the pitch, but Sunderland do still lack creative options.

McGeady and Jack Diamond are busy and dangerous, but beyond those there is a real lack of pace and intent unless Lynden Gooch is on song. The American could be on the bench at Ipswich tomorrow.

Johnson, who has allowed George Dobson to join Wimbledon on loan, said: “It does free up a little bit under the salary cap.

“I can’t go into the details, obviously, but there was a contribution (from AFC Wimbledon) and I think about 70 per cent of that contribution goes back into the salary cap kitty.

“George is still our player. I think Wimbledon are a good club for him, they play good football, and I think he will go down and make a difference for them.

“We’ve brought Carl in. I thought he did well when he came on, the extra experience, the extra assuredness, the extra pass when we needed it."

Sunderland have played eight league matches under Johnson. Three of those have ended in victories, two of them away from home, and one defeat after losing to Wigan hours after his appointment.

There are signs of progress but Johnson needs to find a way to make his side consistent, given how Shrewsbury could easily have left with a point on Saturday particularly after former Middlesbrough youngster Harry Chapman darted past two men only to be denied a wonderful goal by Lee Burge.

“We need to be consistent,” said Johnson. “Consistency of character, consistency of work, consistency of decision-making."