THE tension at the lower reaches of the Championship is mounting and each point gained somehow seems more precious than those bagged in August.

And as the business end of the campaign goes on, Wanderers manager Phil Parkinson admits the matches through the run-in may not be the easiest of watches for supporters desperate to roar their side on to safety.

His opposite number tonight, Sunderland boss Chris Coleman, may be adding height and physical prowess to his side as they prepare for their own must-win fixture with Lamine Kone and Paddy McNair, two of their more athletic players who have been limited by a series of injury problems this term.

“If you look at the Championship, and what makes up most of the teams in this division, it’s a very physical league,” Coleman told the local press in the north east. “They’re two big boys, and when they’re physically and mentally ready, I definitely think they’ll add to us. They’ll strengthen us, for sure.

“Sometimes you look at us, and we probably look a bit short and small compared to the opposition, so if you put a McNair or a Kone in there, it helps. They’re big, physical boys, and that definitely helps.”

And Parkinson, who has recently spoken to his players about the need to improve their set plays, expects muscle, rather than craft, to be the overriding factor in the next couple of months.

“We’ve got a physical presence going in that box for set plays,” he told The Bolton News. “I think QPR was a good example of how, early in the season, they were rolling the ball out at the back and playing through the midfield, but come the nitty-gritty with 15 games to go, at every opportunity the ball went right in the middle of the goal with long throws and set plays.

“Style goes out of the window, it’s more about substance because people are looking to get results more than ever.

“We’re disappointed to go on the road and not pick up anything from the last two games, we’ve now got to get back to the Macron Stadium and perform the way we have done in recent weeks. We’re going to get beat along the way, we know that, but we’ve got to make sure we respond to defeats and start with a performance against Sunderland.

“Ideally when you’ve got beat you want to turn it around in the very next game. That’s got to be our intention, but as I always say it’s about concentrating on what we need to do to perform well on the day.

“Hopefully if we do that the result will take care of itself.”

Parkinson can at least count on one thing – fervent backing from the stands.

The fans’ support has conceivably been a huge factor in the Whites’ home points tally far outweighing what they have garnered on the road.

And in what is sure to be an electric atmosphere at the Macron tonight he will be hoping for more of the same, and that his players respond in kind.

“The support has been great in the stadium, particularly of late, since we sold Gary [Madine] on deadline day, the supporters felt ‘well, we’ve got to play our part more than ever’ because that was a tough week,” admits Parkinson. “We responded well initially and now we’ve had those two defeats which have knocked us back but we need to go again and that’s what we intend to do.

“They’re one of the teams in that mini-league at the bottom with us and we know it’s a big game, a crucial game for both teams.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re nice and calm, we’re physically up for the game, which we will be, but also being calm as well. We’ve got to get that balance right.

“Obviously we’ve watched them over the last few weeks and over the last day or so been able to look at their games ourselves, like we always do, everybody does their homework on the opposition.

“But I think with Sunderland it’s difficult to predict what shape they’ll play, they’ve changed quite a lot. Chris will probably, like me have had to do a bit of soul-searching over the weekend in terms of what team and what shape he’s going to play because they’ve had a bad result like us.

“The supporters have been great for us this season but I felt, particularly in the last couple of games, they’ve realised what’s at stake. Last year when we got promoted it was a real team effort, from everybody at the training ground to the chairman and every single supporter coming into the ground, and this will be no different.

“The lads enjoy playing at home, which is great feeling to have because when you’re running out at your home stadium you want to look forward to it.”