Jack Baldwin believes Sunderland have the psychological advantage over their promotion rivals - having climbed back into League One’s top two.
The Black Cats have spent recent weeks battling with Barnsley and Portsmouth for second spot, with a backlog of games handing Jack Ross’ side to stamp their authority on the promotion race.
And while Tuesday evening’s 1-1 draw with Burton Albion perhaps wasn’t the statement of intent some had hoped for, Baldwin believes the point gained - which saw Sunderland return to the automatic promotion promotion places - will have left other clubs worrying about the Wearsiders.
“It definitely makes a difference,” he admitted.
“Other teams will look at the table and see we have a game in hand as well.
“We’re in a strong position and while it would have been nice if we’d put the three points on the board, you look at the position we’re in and if you ask would we take that, I think we would, yeah.”
“It’s important we focus on ourselves and do our job
“What other teams want to do, whether they look at the league or focus on themselves is up to them but if they do check the league it’s always going to be in the back of their minds where we’re sitting with a game in hand which hopefully we can make full use of.”
It was Baldwin who proved Sunderland’s saivour on the evening, nodding home from a Grant Leadbitter corner to level things up.
And the centre back has praised the January signing’s impact - and hopes and his defensive partners will continue to profit from his pinpoint deliveries.
“There’s been loads of goalscorers this year from all over the park so it’s important for us as defenders when we get set pieces to go and try our luck,” added Baldwin.
“Grant said to me after the first corner, ‘I put it right across the front post and no one was there! Make sure you’re there!’
“The second one he put far, but the third one I got on the end of.
“Grant’s been great and he’s spot on with his deliveries every time.
“As defenders we’ve just got to make sure we’re attacking it with good timing to hopefully get on the end of it more often than not.”
But while Baldwin was celebrating at one end of the pitch, he and defensive partner Tom Flanagan endured a difficult evening at the other end.
A lively Burton frontline caused the Black Cats no shortage of problems throughout the game, with the centre back duo coming under some real scrutiny.
And Baldwin knows that while he and Flanagan have built-up a good understanding, they are far from assured of a starting spot during the season run-in.
The likes of Alim Ozturk, Jimmy Dunne and Gleen Loovens are all pushing for starts, and the 25-year-old insists that such intense competition will drive him on as he aims to help Sunderland to promotion.
“We spoke about partnerships at the beginning of the season and through the middle of the pitch, at centre-half and central midfield, we’ve got so many options,” said Baldwin.
“With all the games we’ve got thick and fast, if the manager feels one of us needs a rest we’ve got good enough strength in depth to come in and do a job
“Lads feel disappointed when they’re not playing but that’s football.
“The competition will only drive us on.
“We’re all top professionals and we know what the manager picks is his decision and what he feels is best for the game.
“At the same time if anyone comes in, they do it brilliantly.”