THERE might be 25 points and 16 places separating bottom club Sunderland with Middlesbrough, but Paddy McNair does not think such statistics will even come into this Saturday’s Wear-Tees derby at the Stadium of Light.

When the two North-East neighbours go head-to-head there is just as much need for both the Black Cats and Boro to emerge with the points for completely contrasting reasons at opposite ends of the Championship table.

While Middlesbrough are looking for the victory, on the back of Tuesday’s victory over Hull City, to keep the pressure on their rivals for a play-off place, Sunderland know only a third home win in 14 months is essential in the battle to stay up.

The defeat to Bolton two nights ago was suffered despite an improvement in the performance, although they still struggled to find a way for their forwards to find the net and that cost them dearly at the Macron Stadium.

Chris Coleman knows the fight for survival has entered the final stages and with 13 matches remaining, Sunderland sitting three points adrift of safety and only the bottom four teams are within reach at this stage, there is an acceptance that results have to take a turn for the better immediately.

“You have to believe, the 11 players on the pitch have to believe we’re going to win the game,” said McNair. “It’s very frustrating not getting three points in midweek but if there’s a positive to take from it, it’s that we did play well and when you look at the goal, it’s a handball. It’s a handball.

“We can’t go into Saturday with our heads down, we need to produce a strong performance. I felt we were very lucky and when we put in good performances the points will come.

“In the Championship anyone can beat anyone and we have to go in with that mindset. It doesn’t matter where Middlesbrough are in the table, it’s irrelevant. We know we can go into that game and take three points.”

The blows keep arriving on a Sunderland squad already drained of confidence after a depressing 18 months of relegation and heartache, and the mood among the supporters is just as bad if not worse.

This week an independent fan group has urged for people to sign a petition demanding change, even though club owner Ellis Short is known to be actively looking to sell already and that he is prepared to move on for a knockdown £50m.

Sunderland’s players know they can’t afford to think about anything other than what happens on the pitch, and Coleman will spend the rest of this week gearing them up for the visit of Middlesbrough.

Whether they like it or not the squad has to come up with a way to show strength of character to recover from Tuesday’s defeat at Bolton when they felt hard done by; basically because there was a handball from Zach Clough when he scored as well as a decent display that earned nothing.

McNair said: “We had a good performance and we’ve just got to take the positives from that. We’re at home to Middlesbrough so we’ll be looking to take the three points.

“Bolton’s goal sums up our luck at the minute. But it will change. Once we start performing as a team, which we did on Tuesday, it will change for us.

“I thought we played very well. I thought we were the better side and deserved the three points and we’re not getting them.

“We would have loved to score a goal but it wasn’t to be. I think putting in good performances is the main thing and you make your own luck.

“If we can play well and get the ball into the final third in other games as much as we did at Bolton, I think it will drop in the net for us.

“We just need a goal from somewhere. At the minute we just need that first three points. It’s frustrating but we do believe it will.”

McNair was back in action at Bolton for the first time since New Year’s Day and it was his first start since November 25 because of a succession of injuries. He has only played eight times this season.

The former Manchester United midfielder, 22, said: “I didn’t really think it was a difficult game to come back into because I thought we played very well, we dominated the ball and it was an enjoyable game to play.

“There was nothing said before the game about how many minutes I would play. I felt good. After 70 minutes I started feeling my calves but that’s only normal after being out for so long. I feel good and I’m just looking forward. I’m 100 per cent confident I’ll be ready to start again on Saturday if the manager wants me.”