Sunderland made it six games unbeaten with a hugely convincing win over Wycombe on Saturday, with performances from the likes of Chris Maguire and Charlie Wyke proving key.
It had taken Phil Parkinson some time to settle on his preferred starting XI but after significant experimentation and setbacks he seems to have found a winning formula.
He has faced a difficult experience and backlash from fans, but the fact he has turned things around without making wholesale changes to personnel is a credit to him.
It would have been easy for Parkinson’s belief to dwindle during the early stages of his stint – as recently as Boxing Day supporters were left fuming with the draw against bottom side Bolton.
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However, Parkinson has fostered a strong spirit in the dressing room, and against the Chairboys Sunderland played some brilliant football, with Wyke at the heart of a lot that went well.
His link-up play was terrific as he played a huge part in Denver Hume grabbing the second goal, after Wyke himself had opened the scoring.
The striker commented on Parkinson’s playing style as something that would help him thrive when he made his injury return, and so far he has looked accomplished at leading the line, starting in each of the last six games.
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The likes of Maguire and Lynden Gooch have also performed well either side of him recently by contributing goals and assists, with the former grabbing two more goals on Saturday to stretch his tally to nine.
A magnificent free-kick epitomised the skill Maguire has, but his celebration for both goals – including an outburst in the face of Wycombe keeper Ryan Allsop – really showed how much it means to him.
Sunderland will need to emulate that desire if they are to maintain their good run of form and continue to climb the table, and re-entering the play-off places will be a huge boost in that bid.
Parkinson should be credited for the way he has handled Maguire, however, as he made the bold choice to drop him when he was underperforming.
The removal of Aiden McGeady from the squad may also have had a positive effect, too, as the winger was perhaps a bad influence on his teammate – with the pair caught eating McDonald’s after a defeat last month.