Jack Ross has told his Sunderland players not to look at the League One table now, saying it only matters come the end of the season.
Sunderland had to settle for a point against promotion rivals Peterborough United at the Stadium of Light despite dominating the opening 45 minutes.
The 2-2 draw left Sunderland fourth, four points adrift of the automatic promotion spots.
Read more: Why George Honeyman missed the 2-2 draw with Peterborough United
Josh Maja’s cool finish, his eighth of the campaign, gave Sunderland a 21st minute lead but further chances were squandered by Aiden McGeady and Jerome Sinclair.
Bryan Oviedo’s reckless challenge on Marcus Maddison led to a straight red and Posh fought their way back into the game through sub Joe Ward.
Sinclair’s smart finish saw Sunderland regain the lead but ex-Newcastle United striker Ivan Toney levelled in the 84th minute.
Both sides had to settle for a point following a feisty and competitive affair.
Sunderland’s ambition is to win promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking.
Ross said: “The league table doesn’t matter now, don’t look at it now. It only matters at the end of the season.
“We have had challenges this season and been so resilient in meeting them, we are dealing with the expectations of being where we are.
“That group keep improving their performance levels, we are getting better. We are still not there but we are getting better all the time. We are getting players back and they are responding to what I want from them.
“We will be in a better position at the end of the season. The belief within them is beginning to grow.”
Read more: Jack Ross on Bryan Oviedo red and Denver Hume injury blow
Posh had won five straight away games before last night but Sunderland overwhelmed them in the opening 45 minutes.
It took a half-time tactical switch to 4-4-2 and two subs in the shape of Ward and Maddison for Posh to regain a foothold.
Ross added: “I thought we were very good, different aspects really good. First half we were miles ahead. Second half we had to be resilient, we did that well, then the response we had with ten men was outstanding.
“For my team to go and try to win the game is testament to my team.
“As manager of this club and the group of players, we want to win every single game, we take that expectation on our shoulders and we try to win. We did that.
“There are not players in there who are happy with a draw, even with ten men. They feel more comfortable after I have come out and told them the positives; the character, resilience all season has been great, the performance is great.”
Watford loanee Sinclair celebrated his first goal, firing home from close range with 79 minutes on the clock.
Ross was full of praise for the forward.
“When you bring loans to a club, you have to be careful they are a good fit and a good character, Jerome has had limited opportunities but his attitude in training is brilliant,” said Ross.
“He is determined to do well here, desperate to do well here.
“Not just for his own career, he likes the club and I was really pleased for him. He is hard on himself, he was disappointed at half-time with the missed opportunity, others were good around him.
“I was just disappointed his goal wasn’t the winner.”
Ross made five changes with Denver Hume (knee), Glenn Loovens (knee), Lynden Gooch (hamstring) missing through injury, with Lee Cattermole serving a one-game ban.
Skipper George Honeyman was also missing after taking a ball to the head in training. Luke O’Nien was ill.
Ross said: “George, it was a head knock, protocol around concussion meant he couldn’t play.
“He wanted to play, felt as if he was able to but there is procedures in place now and we have to be respectful of them.
“We will assess him before Saturday.”
Posh boss Steve Evans said: “Hard place to get anything and we think Sunderland will challenge for promotion, so credit to the group. This is a great place and the fans are great, they are so good they get so many decisions for them.”