LEE JOHNSON admits his Sunderland players have to produce an immediate response to Saturday’s setback against Charlton if their automatic-promotion push is not to suffer a potentially fatal blow at Wigan tonight.

Sunderland’s 12-game unbeaten run in League One came crashing to an end as Charlton claimed a 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light at the weekend, with the result leaving the Black Cats five points adrift of the automatic-promotion spots with seven games to play.

With at least one game in hand on both of the teams above them, and with a trip to Hull City approaching next Tuesday, Sunderland’s fate is still in their own hands.

Win all of their remaining seven games, and they are guaranteed to be spending next season in the Championship. Slip up tonight, though, and they will be relying on a favour from at least one of the clubs currently above them in the table.

“We go to Wigan and we want to get back on the horse as quickly as possible, and try to get the desired result,” said Johnson. “We knew there would be setbacks. We had to come from a long way back in this division. The various different scenarios within the league means there are a lot of teams trying to do things.

“We need to go into the Wigan game better than we were (against Charlton). We need to do our jobs, we can’t give one goal away for something stupid. If they produce a wonderful team goal, or a bad refereeing decision, you hold your hands up, but not the way we conceded (at the weekend).”

Wigan will hardly lack motivation themselves this evening as Saturday’s impressive 4-1 win at Doncaster lifted the Latics to within a place and a point of the safety zone.

Leam Richardson’s side were ending a five-game winless run as they won at the Keepmoat Stadium, but Sunderland know all about their thread, having lost the corresponding fixture at the Stadium of Light 1-0 in December.

That was Johnson’s first game in charge of the Black Cats, and while the fact that he was only appointed on the morning of the match was a mitigating factor in his side’s subsequent defeat, Wigan’s impressive performance on the day means he will be taking nothing for granted ahead of this evening’s rematch.

“It’s a bit of a test,” he said. “That was my first game in charge, and Wigan are a good side. We have seen the Bristol Rovers game, how hard that was for us. That bit of confidence is required, we need a good performance and result.”

Johnson is expected to make changes tonight, with Denver Hume poised to make his first start since suffering a hamstring injury in that Wigan defeat in December. The full-back has been a second-half substitute in Sunderland’s last two matches, but is set to replace Callum McFadzean tonight.

Jordan Jones could also return to the starting side after coming off the bench to replace Aiden O’Brien at the weekend.

Sunderland (probable, 4-3-3): Burge; McLaughlin, Sanderson, O’Nien, Hume; Power, Leadbitter, Scowen; Jones, Wyke, McGeady.