Aiden O’Brien proved worryingly wasteful in Sunderland’s 2-0 win over Gillingham on Saturday.
Black Cats boss Phil Parkinson gifted his summer capture his fourth start of the League One campaign at Priestfield Stadium following substitute roles in victories over Swindon and Crewe, but ultimately hauled the 27-year-old off in the 70th-minute after a torrid display.
O’Brien would have gone into the Gillingham affair at peak fitness having been overlooked for any involvement in defeat to Portsmouth or the midweek draw with Rochdale, yet could not make any inroads into avoiding a third winless game which Chris Maguire and Lynden Gooch eventually prevented.
Maguire converting from the spot in the 84th-minute before Gooch turned the ball home deep into stoppage-time saw Sunderland snatch all three points, returning the Stadium of Light natives into the Play-Off positions after Portsmouth’s 2-0 loss at home to Charlton.
Parkinson was full of optimism for what O’Brien could bring to the North East following his summer arrival upon release by Millwall, adding a versatile forward to the ranks who boasts international experience with the Republic of Ireland.
“I’m really pleased with the signing of Aiden,” Parkinson said, via quotes by The Shields Gazette. “He’s at a good age, he has experience of winning this division and he has played plenty of Championship football.
“Aiden can also play in a variety of attacking roles, which I feel is important for us. We are delighted to welcome him to the club, and we are looking forward to working with him.”
O’Brien has so far failed to provide a single goal or assist in League One over 359 minutes of game time, though struck his first in red and white during the Black Cats’ 8-1 demolition of Aston Villa’s academy side in the EFL Trophy.
Parkinson’s decision to haul O’Brien off 25-minutes into the second-half against Gillingham proved a wise move with Maguire and Gooch later sealing all three points.
The Sunderland boss had plenty of reasons to change his forward line-up, too, with O’Brien failing to make good use of his attacking chances while fielded alongside Charlie Wyke in a two-man strike force.
O’Brien ended his appearance with just the single shot attempted but failed to direct the effort on target, to miss what SofaScore deemed to be a big chance to score, while also failing to play a single key ball, make a single successful dribble, deliver an accurate cross or win either of his two aerial duels.
The 27-year-old additionally lost three of his five ground contests, only found teammates with six of his 12 attempted passes, committed one foul and took just 26 touches.
Parkinson will now surely be questioning O’Brien’s place in the starting line-up ahead of Sunderland’s third-tier meeting with Ipswich Town on Tuesday night.