Jones's rapid recovery gives Bruce reason to be cheerful

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The Independent Football

Kenwyne Jones will be able to play a part in Sunderland's Premier League run-in after being spared a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Their manager Steve Bruce feared being without Jones for a month after the striker limped off at half-time during Sunday's 1-1 draw with Manchester City. However, Bruce was handed a major boost yesterday when scans revealed no lasting damage and Jones could even retain his place in the squad for Birmingham City's visit to the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Bruce said: "Kenwyne's had a scan and, thankfully, the damage isn't as bad as we first feared. It's too early to say whether he will make Saturday's game, but we will keep an eye on him, give him all the treatment we can and keep our fingers crossed."

Injuries and suspensions have left Bruce's squad stretched since an impressive start to the season left them dreaming of a top-10 finish and even an outside chance of European qualification.

Recently, their thoughts have been focused on avoiding the relegation zone, something which looked a distinct possibility when they went 14 league games without a win before their 4-0 demolition of Bolton on 9 March.

Sunderland have lost just one of their last seven league games and were within two minutes of beating City until substitute Adam Johnson struck. That run has coincided with a return to form for Jones, whose level of performance dipped around the turn of the year amid speculation that he was a target for Liverpool. Darren Bent is the club's leading scorer with 19 goals, with Jones on eight after the opener against City. Bruce knows how crucial Jones is to Bent, providing something different to allow the £10m man to do what he does best.

He said: "The one thing Darren likes is to be on the shoulder. I don't think he is that comfortable when he has to be the lead man himself."