SUNDERLAND can secure Championship status by showing the same sort of character they did against Middlesbrough – even if Paddy McNair will be missing for the next few weeks through injury.

That is Chris Coleman's thoughts, although he has revealed McNair’s latest injury woe means he has been ruled out for three weeks, having had to withdraw in the first half of the draw with Boro on Saturday.

It is not all bad news on the injury front because the Sunderland manager expects to have late January signings Ovie Ejaria and Kazenga LuaLua available for Saturday’s trip to Millwall.

It is the frustration of having McNair missing which frustrates the most. He was only starting his second game since November when he was withdrawn on 41 minutes.

“We’ll probably lose Paddy for two or three weeks with his groin which is unfortunate,” said Coleman. “Paddy has that physicality in midfield – he has energy and he’s a very good player – so to lose him, especially in the Championship where that type of player can change your life, is a blow.”

The snow and ice has prevented LuaLua and Ejaria from testing their fitness on grass, so Coleman is not guaranteeing at this stage that they will face the Lions. He does think there is a strong chance, while Marc Wilson and Robbin Ruiter will miss out again.

Sunderland are looking to build on two promising displays against Bolton and Middlesbrough by returning The Den with a vital three points in the battle to climb out of the relegation zone.

Coleman said: “It felt a bit more positive on Saturday. We are still disappointed we didn’t get three points but my words to them were ‘ten days ago we would have lost that by four or five with the way we were playing and the mood we were in’.

“I know there’s been a lot said about formations and this, that and the other. But I say again it’s a state of mind and mentality. If you really want something to work, you will make it work.

“Formations and tactics, they can help but where we are, it’s all about heart, it’s about courage and personality and mentality, state of mind, all those old fashioned words. We’ve just got to have plenty of that and we will give ourselves a real good chance.”

Sunderland are four points shy of safety with 12 matches remaining and are rooted to the foot of the table after failing to win any of their last six matches.

Coleman said: “If we want to make the last dozen games uncomfortable, make it feel like five seasons long, then keep turning up like we were pre-Bolton. We have to go for it and stay in our games. That sends good messages and vibes, we did that.

“If we do that more often than not we will get points. It’s not easy but it’s very doable. There will be a time when we win and it will change the face of everything.

“I am convinced it will come. We have to keep performing like that, even if we lacked quality in certain areas, but we created chances and gave a lot. It’s simple.”