CHRIS MAGUIRE’S purple patch continued as Sunderland climbed to within four points of the automatic-promotion positions with a comprehensive 3-0 home win over Rochdale.

Having scored the winner in last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Ipswich Town, Maguire turned provider as he helped set up all three of the Black Cats’ first-half goals at the Stadium of Light.

The 31-year-old teed up two goals for Lynden Gooch and also helped force an own goal from Rochdale defender Eoghan O’Connor as his recent renaissance under Phil Parkinson continued.

Maguire’s efforts helped Sunderland extend their unbeaten home run to seven matches and enabled the Wearsiders to rise to fifth position in the table, with at least one game in hand on all bar one of the teams currently above them.

“I think he’s a player playing with a lot of confidence,” said assistant manager Steve Parkin, who conducted the post-match press duties instead of Parkinson. “I think he enjoys the role he’s playing, he’s relishing the fact that he gets a lot of the ball and in good areas.

“He’s a tremendous crosser of the ball, if you give him half a yard, he will put it in a good area. He’s been a key player for us and he’s enjoying his football.”

Maguire hobbled around the pitch after he was substituted in the closing stages of the game, raising fears he might have sustained a serious injury.

However, Parkin revealed he was only struggling with a dead leg, and is confident he will be fit enough to retain his place for Saturday’s trip to Oxford United.

“He’s alright,” said the Sunderland number two. “He said he did it with a burst of pace. I can’t see that, can you? I think it’s a bit of a dead leg. He’ll be fine.”

Sunderland won the game in the opening 32 minutes, with all three of their goals coming during a blistering opening spell that saw the Black Cats’ pressing game force their opponents into a series of costly errors.

Maguire and Gooch ran the Rochdale defence ragged, with Luke O’Nien and Denver Hume effectively joining in the attacks as auxiliary wingers as they pushed forward from their wing-back berths.

“It was a professional performance,” said Parkin. “We set out a way we wanted to play today, we wanted to come out of the blocks and back up the second-half performance at the weekend.

“The lads never gave Rochdale a chance to breathe really, they were right on top of them. Tactically, the pressing worked a treat, we were all in our blocks and the lads at the back allowed them to do that properly because they were right up on the halfway line. We’re delighted with the win, the goals and the clean sheet, which is massive for us.

“We’ve been more or less playing like that for five or six weeks, getting the ball wide, switching the play, backing that up by getting people on the edge of the box. We lock attacks in and in difficult conditions, some of the play was exceptional.”

Rochdale boss Brian Barry-Murphy was impressed with Sunderland’s energetic approach, admitting the tactics represented a marked shift from the more patient approach adopted by Jack Ross last season.

“From the outside looking in, they’re pretty relentless in the way they go about the game,” said Barry-Murphy. “They have a different style to what we experienced last season.

“It’s probably equally as effective, and we were under no illusions about how tough the game was going to be. From my own point of view though, and without wanting to take anything away from Sunderland at all, I didn’t think we were able to play at the intensity and speed that we have done during our good spells this season.”