Jack Ross gives key Duncan Watmore update as Sunderland forward closes in on play-off return
Jack Ross is hopeful that Duncan Watmore could provide him with a potential wildcard in the second leg of the play-off semi final next week.
Watmore has been out of action since early March, suffering a serious ankle injury just moments after scoring his first league goal of the season against Wycombe Wanderers.
He returned to full training on Thursday and while Saturday's first leg against Portsmouth will come too soon, the 25-year-old could feature if the Black Cats need him at Fratton Park in seven days time.
"He only trained today so it's very early for the weekend, but certainly, he could possibly come into contention next week, depending on how we need to approach the game, what we might need from it and how he is feeling," Ross said.
"We'll balance that all up.
"He was determined to get out in full training on Thursday, it could maybe have been a little bit longer but he was determined and he looked as if he come through the session fine.
"We'll see how he reacts, hopefully he'll on train on Friday and then we can take the decision from there."
Watmore has been a miss for the Black Cats, who ended the regular league season with just one win in seven.
His involvement in the play-offs will clearly be limited after such a long spell on the sidelines, but Ross thinks he could add something different if required.
"He's a different type of player for us," he said.
"If you look back at some of the games we've had, that ability to stretch the game like he does, we've seen [the impact] in some of the games prior to that ankle injury.
"We've not really got a like-for-like player in the squad.
"So it's a boost and an unexpected one because we did think we'd be without him in this period."
Sunderland are almost at full strength for the first leg, with Reece James the only other senior player ruled out at this stage.
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James has missed training this week due to a groin problem.
Opponents Portsmouth are in similarly good health, with Kenny Jackett confirming that star winger and top scorer Jamal Lowe will return to the squad.
He sat out their 1-1 draw with Accrington Stanley last week due to concerns over fatigue after the birth of his second child.
"He is (fine), Jackett said.
"'With a baby, the recent addition, congratulations to him and his partner on his second child.
"But he's been in all week. He looks really enthusiastic and positive towards playing on Saturday."
Striker Omar Bogle missed the last clash between these two sides but is fit again and could lead the line.
Centre-back Jack Whatmough, who has been injured since February, is the only regular absent from Jackett's squad.
"We have a fully-fit squad, barring [Jack] Whatmough and [Dion] Donohue, which is good news for us," he said.
"As the weeks have gone on, people have come back towards it, which is helpful for us and encouraging.
"We're looking forward to the game and everyone is ready.
"We've had a good week's training, lots of enthusiasm.
"The players have been very bright and are looking forward to the weekend."