Steve Parkin has this message as he assesses Sunderland's challenge against Rochdale

Steve Parkin expects the League One promotion race to go right to the wire, and has warned Sunderland that they cannot underestimate Rochdale on Tuesday night.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 6:00 am

The Black Cats secured a crucial win over Ipswich Town on Saturday to keep pace with the sides at the top of the division.

Tuesday night represents a major opportunity for Sunderland, with Rotherham United not playing and Portsmouth facing Coventry City at St Andrews.

“We just have to take each game on merit,” said the Sunderland assistant manager.

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Steve Parkin expects a tough test from Brian Barry-Murphy's Rochdale

“We need to get on a run again, making sure we pick the right team and the right players in terms of energy levels, and have that consistency.

“We were winning practically every week at Bolton but it still went to the last week of the season because there were two or three teams doing the same.

“It will go to the wire, no doubt about that, because there's a quality there and a desire from four or five teams to get out of this division.”

Rochdale currently sit 18th in the table but have won plaudits for their playing style under Brian Barry-Murphy.

Their points haul away from home also puts them in the top ten in the division, and at the weekend they earned an impressive point away at Doncaster Rovers.

They also have a number of impressive young players, with 17-year-old Luke Matheson recently joining Wolves before being loaned back for the rest of the season.

Experienced striker Aaron Wilbraham is also well known to the Sunderland management duo, having scored the goal that kept Bolton Wanderers in the Championship on the last day of the 2017-18 season.

“I saw them earlier in the season at Coventry,” Parkin said.

“They lost the game but they had several chances, certainly in the first half, to come away with a victory.

“They've got dangerous players and wily old fox in Alby [Aaron Wilbraham] who is 40-years-old but is still playing, still a goal threat and still a really good player.

“The goal prowess of [Ian] Henderson speaks for itself, the amount of goals he has scored speaks for itself.

“It's going to be a tough game, we'll need the fans right behind us, and we need to play with the energy with we can.

“They've got some good, technical footballers.

“I've only seen him [Luke Matheson] on TV but everytime I've seen him he looks like a very impressive young man and a very good player.

“The way they want to play is written in stone,” he added.

“They want to get the ball down, play out from the back, the manager firmly believes in that and he's obviously got the players believing in that because at times they can be devastatingly good with that.

“On the flip side, sometimes you have to take what comes with it and on odd occasions you can give the ball away in bad areas.

“They accept that and it doesn't seem to affect them.”