SUNDERLAND climbed to seventh in the League One table as Luke O’Nien’s first-half header secured a 1-0 win over Southend United.

The Black Cats have won two of their five matches under new boss Phil Parkinson – what were the main debating points from their latest success at the Stadium of Light?


Is Luke O’Nien better as an attacking midfielder or a right-back? The question was asked throughout Jack Ross’ time in charge, but it was only really towards the end of the Scotsman’s reign that he began to favour fielding the 24-year-old upfield.

Parkinson has been much more decisive, and while O’Nien started in the backline in the 1-0 defeat at Shrewsbury, he will surely be spending most of his time in the next few months playing in a midfield position.

His energy and movement add another dimension to Sunderland’s attack, and his desire to break into the box and offer a goalscoring threat was exemplified by the 20th-minute header that secured all three points. Having performed so impressively, he will surely remain in a midfield role.


Defensively, Sunderland look to have improved on Parkinson’s watch. At the other end of the field, however, the new Black Cats boss continues to wrestle with the same problems that plagued Ross.

On Saturday, he selected Will Grigg ahead of Marc McNulty, but having missed a penalty in Tuesday’s shoot-out defeat at Oxford, the Northern Irishman once again struggled to make much of an impact. He failed to find the target with headed opportunities either side of the interval, and never really looked like adding to his one league goal this season.

Once Charlie Wyke recovers full fitness, there is every chance he will be Parkinson’s number one forward. Until then, though, the hope will be that Grigg improves.


They might be out of the Carabao Cup, but Sunderland’s schedule continues to feature plenty of cup matches. The Black Cats return to action tomorrow night with a Trophy home game against Leicester City Under-21s, and kick off their FA Cup campaign with a first-round tie against Gillingham on Saturday.

Parkinson will use those two matches to have a look at some of the fringe performers in his squad, mindful that the January window is approaching and he will have to decide where he needs to strengthen.

Dylan McGeouch will start at least one of this week’s games, and there is a good chance Benji Kimpioka could also feature. With Lee Burge still injured, it will be interesting to see if youngster Anthony Patterson is selected in the starting side tomorrow.


Sunderland are supposed to return to League One action at Bristol Rovers’ Memorial Ground a week on Saturday, but the game falls in the international break and Parkinson has strongly hinted it is unlikely to take place.

The Black Cats have already called off games against Burton and Fleetwood in previous international breaks, and there is a desire to avoid the kind of fixture pile-up that proved so damaging in the latter stages of last season. However, with Burge still struggling with injury and Jon McLaughlin likely to feature in the Scotland squad, Parkinson will be extremely reluctant to play on November 16.

“We’ll have to wait and see who is called up officially, but the problem we have is the goalkeeping situation,” said the Sunderland boss. “We have to assess Burgey, but we don’t want to go into the game weakened and give them the advantage.”


Last season, Sol Campbell performed an act of footballing escapology with Macclesfield Town. This term, he has been tasked with achieving a similar feat with Southend, and while he is still to pick up his first point in charge of the Shrimpers, there are signs of positive progress.

“It’s another defeat, but the performances are getting better,” said Campbell. “I thought we kept the ball well. We were maybe a little nervous in the beginning, but I thought the players grew as the game went on.”