Jack Ross knows that his Sunderland side cannot afford to take Saturday’s visitors to the Stadium of Light lightly.
Plymouth Argyle have endured a frustrating season and currently sit 14th in the League One standings.
But of late they have shown the form that made them play-off contenders last season, sitting third in the form table over the last ten games.
Only Luton and Barnsley have claimed more than their 21 points over that period.
The influential Graham Carey has returned to form while talented winger Ruben Lameiras has been making significant contributions.
“I think that their form is just an example of how highly competitive this league is,” Ross said.
“I don’t think there is a lot between the best teams in the league and those towards the bottom.
“There’s a difference but I don’t think there’s a huge amount.
“There’s no game where you think it’s going to be comfortable.
“Recently we’ve had a lot of games where we’ve come up against a side in good form.
“Going back to Scunthorpe away, a team that was in brilliant form.
“Bristol Rovers were in good form going into last week and Plymouth again are in very good good form.
“It’s not always reflected in league position.
“We know they’ll come here in a really positive frame of mind, but the sense around our training ground, the players feel really good about themselves.
“They’re looking forward to this run-in.”
Plymouth do have a couple of key concerns ahead of the game, with midfielder Antoni Sarcevic suspended.
Star striker Freddie Ladapo is also an injury doubt.
Ross has been buoyed by the response of his players to a dip in performances at the start of the year and feels they have turned the corner.
They will look to protect their unbeaten home record and put more pressure
“I think it’s been brilliant that the players have come through this period where, partly there was frustration with the draws but more concerning was the performances,” Ross said.
“To come out the other side of that was pleasing but the fact they kept picking up points through that period was testament to their character.
“Training this week has been really good.
“You’ve got to take that into games but the players know they’ve come through that period and that they’re in a really good position.”
Plymouth boss Derek Adams raised eyebrows last time the two sides met, claiming Sunderland were ‘riding their luck’ after a 2-0 win.
Ross played down those comments and praised his side for their resilience throughout the season.
“At the time I thought it was a good away performance from us,” Ross said.
“Jon made some good saves but equally we went to a difficult place, a long way to travel, and won the game.
“I didn’t pay too much attention to what was said.
“In football, sometimes you get what you deserve and sometimes you don’t.
“You’ve got to find a way to win games and pick up points.
“We’ve shown different sides of our character to do that this season,” he added.
“We haven’t always been brilliant and still picked up points, but then I’d argue recently we’ve had games where we’ve played well and not won.
“It’s unfair sometimes, that’s the way it goes.”