Aiden O'Brien has this brilliant message as Sunderland look to battle Hull City and Peterborough United for promotion
Sunderland are set for a dramatic race for the top two in League One season – and Aiden O’Brien says ‘bring it on!’.
The forward – who returned to action at Bristol Rovers and netted the winner in the 1-0 win – is confident that the Black Cats can continue to challenge pace-setters Hull City and Peterborough United in the coming weeks.
Sunderland have games in hand on table-topping Hull and still have both of their promotion rivals to play in the final weeks of the season.
And while their run-in is a fairly daunting one, O’Brien believes the side can take confidence from the ten-game unbeaten run which has propelled them up the League One table.
"We've got to do what we're doing, listen to the coaching staff and the manager and the instructions he gives game-by-game,” he said, when asked how Sunderland would deal with the pressure of a promotion push.
"And just believe in ourselves and what we're doing. Don't change anything or put the pressure on ourselves, just keep doing exactly what we're doing that's had us ten games unbeaten.
“We can stick to that now, try and extend that and play football with a smile on our face - because when we do that we're brilliant.
"We've got that fight now, as well as being a nice footballing team. We've got the balance, so ten games... I'm actually looking forward to it, bring it on.”
That tenth unbeaten game was secured thanks to O’Brien’s first half goal, which heralded his return from a niggling injury.
And in a game that was always going to be tough given Bristol Rovers’ current predicament, the former Millwall man was delighted to make the different.
"It's brilliant,” said the striker.
"It's always nice to score as a striker and even sweeter that it made it a 1-0 win away from home.
“They're fighting for their lives. They're down at the bottom and it's always going to be tough when people are fighting against relegation, especially at their patch as well.
"The manager is probably under pressure as well, so it was a really tough game and to come away with three points - we're delighted with it.
“It doesn't matter who scores, who sets them up, as long as we get the three points weekly now, that's all that matters,” he continued.
"It's come down to the last ten games and it's crucial we stick together as a team, which we have done throughout the season, and we just keep grinding them wins out. That's what it's about at this stage of the season.”
Prior to his injury in the win at Portsmouth, O’Brien had become a key man under Lee Johnson – and has hailed the impact of the head coach.
“We've got a good bond, me and the manager.
"Not just him but Macca as well. I know what they want from me and that's key. It helps me as a player understand exactly what I need to do when I go on the pitch and that's the relationship we have.
“It's kind of shown with me and Chaz up top, we know exactly what we need to do and we're causing defenders chaos. Hopefully we can keep doing that for the last ten games.”