RESULTS have not gone to plan, but when it comes to Phil Parkinson’s impact on the training ground during the first few weeks of his Sunderland reign, George Dobson insists the new Black Cats boss could not have been any more impressive.

Since Jack Ross’ departure at the start of last month, the Black Cats have won just one of their four matches with Parkinson in charge. Admittedly, that success was a five-goal thrashing of Tranmere Rovers, but with league defeats to Wycombe Wanderers and Shrewsbury Town having been accompanied by a Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Oxford United, the passing of the managerial baton has not been smooth.

Nevertheless, as he looks ahead to this afternoon’s home game with a Southend United side coming to terms to with a recent managerial switch of their own, Dobson is confident things will fall into place.

On a personal level, Parkinson’s arrival has heralded his return to the team, and the midfielder has enjoyed getting to the grips with the new manager’s plans.

“I’ve really enjoyed the start under the gaffer,” said Dobson, who joined Sunderland in a summer move from Walsall. “He loves to play at a high energy and get in people’s faces, get on the ball and play passes.

“That’s how I like to play, so I’m really enjoying working under him and Parky (Steve Parkin, assistant boss). It’s been a good start and hopefully I can build on these performances and try and make myself a mainstay in the team.”

Dobson’s energy and work rate appear to have endeared him to his new manager, with Parkinson wanting his side to be more mobile and attack-orientated than the team that evolved under Ross.

Creating chances has not been a problem in the last few games, but Sunderland’s conversion rate has been poor, a failing Dobson does not feel should be laid at Parkinson’s door.

“He’s come in, and it’s been tough for him because we haven’t had a training week together,” he said. “But even without the training week, I feel like he’s really implemented the way he wants to play within the team and I think from the last three performances you can probably see that.

“I think the next few weeks, when we do get a week training together and he can put more ideas across, maybe that might help with the final touch in and around the box.”

Regardless of their teething troubles in front of goal, Sunderland will still start as strong favourites this afternoon.

Southend, whose new manager, Sol Campbell, watched the Black Cats’ League Cup exit from the press box at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday night, would be bottom of League One were it not for Bolton Wanderers’ points penalty, having won just one of their 15 games.

A home win is essential if Sunderland are not to lose further ground in the race for automatic promotion, with both Ipswich and Wycombe currently eight points clear ahead of this weekend’s game. The gap is hardly insurmountable, with Sunderland boasting a game in hand on four of the seven teams currently above them in the table, but the situation would start to look extremely problematic if the Black Cats were to find themselves a double-point margin off the top two.

“Speaking to a lot of the boys, they feel the balance is much better this season within the squad and within the club,” said Dobson. “It’s just that little bit that we need to sort it.

“It’s all well and good saying it though, we need to start doing it. We’re eight points off Ipswich and if you’re going to catch them, you can’t let that gap get too big. We need to make sure Saturday is a good performance and a good result.”