DENNIS CIRKIN is unlikely to feature in Sunderland’s final two games of the regular League One season – but the defender should be available if the Black Cats make it to the play-offs.

Cirkin missed today’s 5-1 win over Cambridge United after picking up an injury in training in the week, and while the problem is not too serious, he is not expected to be involved in Tuesday’s home game with Rotherham or next Saturday’s final game at Morecambe.

“We lost Dennis, which is really frustrating,” said Sunderland boss Alex Neil. “We know that we’ve got gaps in the squad where if we lose a player, we are going to have those deficiencies exposed. Dennis is certainly one of those players.

“It's an injury issue with Dennis. In terms of his return, providing we extend the season (get into the play-offs), then I'd be very hopeful that Dennis would play a part.”

With Cirkin absent, Sunderland could have done without picking up another defensive injury issue, but Carl Winchester was forced off with a groin injury in the opening quarter-of-an-hour of today’s game.

As a result, the Northern Irishman is also now a major doubt for the final two games of the regular season.

“Winny has hurt his groin, but the extent of it, I can’t tell you at the moment,” said Neil. “What I would say about Winny is that he's a robust lad, a hardy boy, so he's not one to come off if there's any chance you can continue.”

With question marks over both Cirkin and Winchester, Callum Doyle is set to play a pivotal role in the next two games, having come off the bench to play as the left of Sunderland’s three centre-halves this afternoon.

“The only disappointment really is the loss of Winny,” said Neil. “But it’s good to get Callum minutes as well. If Dennis and Winny are going to be missing now, there may well be an opportunity for Callum to play.”