Jack Ross reveals why Sunderland's players can take encouragement ahead of the League One play-offs
Sunderland boss Jack Ross hopes Tuesday's defeat at Fleetwood will provide extra time for his squad to mentally prepare for the upcoming play-offs.
Defeat at Highbury mathematically ended the Black Cats' chances of finishing in a top-two position, despite having one league game left to play at Southend on Saturday.
Yet Ross is remaining positive ahead of the trip to Roots Hall, when the Black Cats will face a Shrimpers side fighting to avoid relegation.
And despite insisting Sunderland will take the game seriously, Ross hopes his players can accept and embrace the situation they've found themselves in.
Ross said: "While we wanted the season to go to the final day, having that confirmed midweek definitely allows you to accept your fate and get your mind set that you're involved in the play-offs and what you need to get through them,"
"It allowed us in the 24 hours following Fleetwood to accept that, to come to terms with it and look at it in a positive way."
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Sunderland have lost just four league games this season - against Burton, Portsmouth, Coventry and Fleetwood.
The Black Cats could face either Pompey, Charlton, Doncaster or Peterborough in the play-offs, and Ross is taking encouragement from his record against the top League One sides this term.
"When Saturday's out the way it's a three-game season," added Ross. "My record against the top seven in the league this season has been pretty decent.
"For us there have been a lot of players who have responded in the bigger games this season so there's a lot of things for us to be positive about going into the games."
"We have to embrace them as a squad, we've spoken at length about that, embracing the challenge of these three games and understanding the prize at stake at the end of them."