Sunderland striker Aiden O’Brien offered an invisible display as he led Phil Parkinson’s attack in a 2-1 defeat to Fleetwood Town in the Papa John’s Trophy on Tuesday night.
Parkinson rang the changes once more after bowing out of the FA Cup to Mansfield Town at the weekend, as the Black Cats boss turned to youth after already securing the Stadium of Light natives’ progression through to the EFL Trophy Round of 32.
O’Brien, 27, was the eldest member of the starting Sunderland line-up at Highbury, where the forward was joined by 26-year-olds Callum McFadzean and Jordan Willis, plus 22-year-old George Dobson, as the only visiting players aged over 21.
Former Millwall striker O’Brien could not utilise his years of experience to Parkinson’s benefit, however, as the Black Cats boss witnessed his summer arrival fail to build on his sole Sunderland effort to date – coming in an 8-1 demolition of Aston Villa’s U23s in the EFL Trophy.
Parkinson was delighted to have brought O’Brien to the Stadium of Light this summer, capturing the former Republic of Ireland international on a free transfer following his release by Championship side Millwall.
O’Brien was the first of the Sunderland boss’ arrivals during the off-season, and left Parkinson believing he had acquired a player keen to join the Black Cats for the right reasons.
“We’re really pleased with the signing of Aiden,” said Parkinson, via quotes by the Chronicle. “He’s a good age, he’s been promoted from League One before and he has experience playing Championship football.
“His hunger and desire to come and join us was key for me. I want players to come here for the right reasons and get ready to fight tooth and nail to help us have a great season. He has a real eagerness to be part of this club and he can’t wait to get started.”
But O’Brien’s hunger and desire was not on show at Highbury, as the forward’s pressure could not force the Fleetwood backline into creating opportunities for the five-time international to score.
O’Brien participated for the full 90 minutes at Fleetwood on Tuesday night yet could only register a single shot on Alex Cairns’ goal, though did not see his strike force the Fisherman’s goalkeeper into action with the effort marked as off-target by SofaScore.
Their data also shows the 27-year-old, who scored 44 goals and recorded 16 assists in 226 career appearances for Millwall, failed to play any key balls from a mere 10 accurate passes, while failing to complete his only attempted dribble, was caught offside twice and lost possession six times.
O’Brien further lost six of his eight attempted aerial contests and two of his six ground duels, committed one foul and penned fewer touches (27) than all Fleetwood players who started.
The forward’s efforts will have left a far from pleasing impression on Parkinson, who has only felt fit to start the London-born forward in four League One fixtures thus far.