HE might have been around the Sunderland squad for a number of years now, but Lynden Gooch has thanked Phil Parkinson for giving him the chance to shine in a more central role.

And the Californian-born forward is desperate to stay pivotal to the Black Cats’ chances of securing automatic promotion by staying firmly in the manager’s plans for the run-in.

With 16 matches remaining Sunderland’s run of just one defeat from their last 12 games has lifted them to within touching distance of the top two again.

It is exactly the sort of position Parkinson had craved when he took over and the influence of Gooch alongside Chris Maguire and Charlie Wyke in the final third should not be under-estimated.

Gooch’s brace against Rochdale on Tuesday night was further evidence of his rejuvenation under his current boss, and he has established himself as a regular despite the fact there are numerous players waiting in the wings to take his place.

The 24-year-old would normally be associated with a role on the flank, but under Parkinson he has tucked in to form a formidable three-pronged attack when Sunderland are on the offensive. He is loving it.

"My good form is probably a combination of a few things,” said Gooch. “I like playing more central, and this has been the first manager to really stick with me in a central area.

"I've also got Chrissy (Maguire) around me, and Charlie Wyke does a lot of work that maybe a lot of people don't notice, but it allows me and Chrissy to get into really good positions to score goals.

"We're all enjoying it at the moment, and I think you can see how happy we all are when one of us scores a goal. That's always a good thing.”

The trio’s understanding has seen Sunderland look far more dangerous than they have over the last 18 months, and there is still the likes of Kyle Lafferty, Antoine Semenyo and Duncan Watmore all waiting for a chance to slot back in.

That is why Maguire will be given every chance to recover from the dead leg he sustained against Rochdale so that he can take his place at Oxford United on Saturday in another promotion tussle.

The 31-year-old has been in excellent form. He has become a key component under Parkinson and has struck 11 goals this season, ten in the league. He has also scored more matching winning goals than any other player in League One this season.

Understandably Parkinson wants to give Maguire the time to recover and the signs are positive despite leaving the pitch on 72 minutes against the Dale, with the victory secured.

Joel Lynch is still being monitored having suffered a rib injury when he was left concussed against Portsmouth ten days ago. He hopes to the defender back in training on Monday.

After having to dig in to deliver three points against Ipswich last Saturday, Sunderland were quick to take control against Rochdale in midweek when Gooch’s double helped secure a 3-0 half-time lead. That was how it remained and the American feels the team is showing they know how to win in different ways.

"Saturday was probably more pleasing considering who it was against. We had to grind it out to get wins like that sometimes, but we just kept going and kept going,” said Gooch.

"We kept creating chances and we didn't drop our heads when we hit the woodwork. We just kept going and eventually got our goal. It is an important win. It obviously looks like it's going to go down to the wire, so the more goals we score the better for us. We're keeping them out at the other end too, which is important. It's always a big bonus."

Gooch has hit two goals a few times now for Sunderland but still no hat-trick.

"I think that's three times now I've been on a brace and not managed to get the third,” he smiled. “Obviously I'd like to get that third one, but it's another win, another clean sheet, so that's the most important thing."