LEE JOHNSON feels his Sunderland side are delivering their winning run at the ideal time, with last night’s 1-0 victory over Swindon Town having lifted them to fourth position in the League One table.

Charlie Wyke’s second-half header broke some spirited Swindon resistance, and enabled the Black Cats to move to within five points of the automatic-promotion positions.

When Johnson was appointed at the start of December, a top-two finish looked an extremely unlikely proposition, but a run of just one defeat in the last ten league games has propelled Sunderland up the table.

With another home game against relegation-threatened Rochdale looming at the weekend, this could prove a pivotal week in the Black Cats’ season, and while last night’s game might not have been a classic, the result ensured the momentum generated in the last few weeks endures.

“There’s a lot of football still to play, that’s for sure, but you want to time your run – and now’s the time,” said Johnson. “We know how difficult our March is, and there might be a few bumps in the road.

“We hope there isn’t, but if there is, then all the more reason to capitalise now and make sure that we’re relentless getting those wins when we’re on this kind of run. Then every game becomes even more magnified in terms of how big it is because effectively, you can knock someone else out of the way with a good win and performance.

“Teams in this division are always going to take points off each other, so with 15 games left, we’ve just got to be relentless and try to win every game. We’ve got to keep building the performance and that doesn’t change. The players have been outstanding, and those draws turning into wins are credit to them.”

While Sunderland dominated the vast majority of last night’s game, they failed to record a single effort on target before the interval.

Johnson tweaked things at half-time, switching to a flat back four and moving Lynden Gooch from wing-back to a more attacking ‘number ten’ role, and his decision to bring on Chris Maguire also proved crucial, with the substitute providing the cross for Wyke’s winner.

“First half, in possession, we had a lot of control, but didn’t work their goalkeeper enough,” said Johnson. “We had a lot of bright play, a lot of switches, centre-halves stepping out, a lot of overloads but it never really resulted in a positive action around the six-yard box. We didn't have enough numbers in the box, that's for sure.

“We put Gooch in at ten at half-time and just asked the midfielders to get on the angle to be able to play forward more. They were having a good game, but it was one of those Prozone 95 per cent pass completion things, and not enough forward passes. Second half, we did that much better.”

Gooch was forced off with a calf injury in the second half, but Johnson is hoping the American’s injury is not too serious. However, Conor McLaughlin was absent from the squad after suffering an issue related to his recent hernia operation, and is set for another spell on the sidelines.

“Conor needs an injection on the back of the hernia operation he had,” said Johnson. “He's just having a bit of pain so it's more than likely he'll be out again. Goochy just felt his calf, so hopefully that won't be too bad.

“We’re low on numbers though, and I've said to the Under-23s, there are four spots available for (the squad for) Wembley. If that's not a carrot for them, then I don't know what is.”

Grant Leadbitter also missed last night’s game, and the midfielder is due to see a specialist today to assess the dislocated shoulder he suffered during last Saturday’s draw at Crewe.

“We’ll find out with Grant tomorrow,” said Johnson. “He’s going to see the specialist. It was a bad one, but he’s very strong-minded that he wants to get back as quickly as he can and risk it, but we’ll have to see.”