Lynden Gooch and Luke O’Nien shone in unfamiliar positions during Sunderland’s 1-0 triumph over Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday night and assistant coach Steve Parkin was full of praise for the Black Cats duo, while speaking to the club’s official website.
While even Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool have found themselves on the wrong end of humiliating defeats in recent weeks, the best defensive record in English football this season currently belongs to one of the game’s sleeping giants.
A sixth successive clean sheet means that Sunderland have now conceded just once in seven matches across 2020/21 – and even that came from the penalty spot.
The in-form Black Cats kept Crewe off the scoresheet last night thanks largely to an impressive performance from O’Nien, a central midfielder by trade, in an alien left-sided centre-half role.
While O’Nien stepped up to the plate at one end, it was Gooch’s ‘top quality’ deliveries at the other that lifted Sunderland into the play-off places.
The American’s pinpoint cross on the stroke of half time forced Crewe defender Luke Offord into a decisive own goal. You would never have guessed that Gooch was far from a regular in a right-wing-back role.
“We’ve swapped Lyndon from left to right and he’s put in half a dozen at least top quality crosses into the box. (And) we’ve dropped Luke in at left-sided centre-half and he’s been a revelation,” Parkin said, before hailing the belief of this hungry, talented squad.
“There’s real belief among the boys as well, there’s real togetherness, the lads who are not even playing are pushing and training properly.
“There’s real quality about the group and some of the football we played tonight, I think there was 12-13 passes in the build up to the goal and 21 attempts on goal, six on target… we produced and created a lot of really good football.”
Another victory over old rivals Portsmouth on Saturday could lift Sunderland into the automatic promotion positions, should other results go their way.