Jack Ross revealed Charlie Wyke climbed from his sick bed to fire Sunderland closer to automatic promotion from Sky Bet League One in a 2-0 win over Doncaster.
Wyke set up Lewis Morgan’s seventh-minute opener before claiming his fourth goal of the season as he doubled Sunderland’s lead towards the end of the first half, leaving them two points short of second-placed Barnsley with a game in hand.
The striker has dislodged Will Grigg from the starting line-up but his involvement in his side’s latest victory was in the balance until a minute or two before kick-off due to illness.
Ross said: “He wasn’t feeling good before the game. He had a migraine and he was sick in the changing room.
“I actually didn’t think he would play. Kaz Sterling went out and warmed up because I thought we would have to make that change to the teamsheet in the warm-up, but he started to feel a little bit better.
“I’m delighted he played, and to produce that performance on the back of not feeling particularly great was really good.
“He’s shown what we thought he would do when we brought him to the club. That’s the reason we brought him in. He’s capable of leading the line, and when we play that system it’s really important. He had to adjust to that role because it’s been different for him.”
Doncaster boss Grant McCann felt his side had been far too cautious as they fell behind in the first half and did not believe their performance was representative of the way they have played for the vast majority of the campaign.
McCann said: “I’m very disappointed. We were nowhere near where we needed to be in the first half, and Sunderland deserved to be 2-0 up, possibly more.
“We lacked any sort of energy and probably for the whole day we were much too safe as a team. I haven’t said that many times this year. It’s not what I’m about and it’s not what my team is about, but I thought we were very safe today.
“When I say safe, I mean there weren’t many times we got at their back four, weren’t many times we played it forward. We were playing backwards and sideways, and that makes it difficult.
“Sunderland came with a game plan to sit behind the ball and stop us from getting in behind, but we didn’t threaten them anywhere near enough.
“It was a bit of a case of, ‘This is Sunderland – what’s going to happen’, and that surprised me a bit about the team. But we haven’t got time to dwell on it. We’ve got another three tough games coming up, starting on Tuesday at home to Accrington, and we’ve got to respond.”