Sunderland boss hoping Manchester United drop points in battle for title
Sunderland's hopes of landing the Under-21 title rest on rivals Manchester United dropping points in their remaining matches.
But boss Andy Welsh has praised his side's "winning culture" and says all they can do is continue to keep winning and hope the Reds slip up.
Sunderland moved four points clear at the top of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League thanks to the 1-0 win over basement side Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
But the Black Cats have just two games left, while second-placed United now have three games in hand.
Welsh told the Echo: "All we can do is win our games - it is as simple as that!
"If we can get another six points then you never know, Manchester United have to play Chelsea home and away still and we are hoping they slip up and we take the points.
"Overall, it has been a fantastic season and we have played some really good football.
"We have had a great desire and intensity when we haven't played well to get over the line.
"We have a winning culture, it is important and that showed again."
Ethan Robson went off injured after 15 minutes and Welsh said it appeared to be a groin problem which would be assessed over the next 24 to 48 hours.
The first team maybe struggling to hold on to a lead as they battle for Premier League survival but the club's second string showed them how it is done with a gritty display against Boro, the winner coming from Carl Lawson.
Welsh added: "It is very difficult to get over the line sometimes and there is a big difference between Under-21 football and Premier League but the desire, intensity and shape towards the end of the game was good.
"Everyone gave a shift and that is important for the future development of our players."
Welsh named a strong side with Jeremain Lens, Billy Jones and Wes Brown in the starting line-up.
"They all worked really hard, they were terrific all three of them," said Welsh.
"Billy worked very hard and defended very well, same with Wes Brown, his distribution was very good and his quality and experience speaks for itself.
"Jeremain worked hard and could have scored. He went back into midfield when we didn't have the ball.
"Their attitude was first class, they have bought into the fact that the boys are top of the league and they didn't want to let anybody down."