THERE is clearly no stopping Sunderland defender Conor McLaughlin – in more ways than one.

The 29-year-old reported for Black Cats duties after a hectic few days of travelling across Europe with Northern Ireland.

It was a case of planes, erm, team coaches and automobiles for McLaughlin after pitting his wits against Erling Haaland’s Norway in the Nations Cup.

But with the prospect of starting his first senior Sunderland league game since a 1-0 defeat at Gillingham last December, nothing was going to get in his way.

And it was his return to frontline club duties that really spoke volumes of this comeback kid’s mettle rather than his efforts making his way back to Wearside from Scandinavia.

Indeed, that multi-legged journey from Wednesday night’s game in Oslo was nothing compared to his journey from being out in the cold on Wearside.

“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind with all the travelling,” said McLaughlin, after Sunderland maintained their strong start to the season with another win at Swindon’s County Ground.

“We flew back into Belfast at four o’clock in the morning. Then it was back to Newcastle at five o’clock. There was a bit of light training on Friday, catching with the pre-match analysis but that was no big deal at all because I was just glad to be back in the team.”

The international break benefited McLaughlin and Sunderland as a whole as he made an assured defensive display, first at wing-back and then centre-back after Jordan Willis went off injured.

It was like he had never been away as McLaughlin made light of the fact that he was struggling to get a look-in under manager Phil Parkinson.

That was because a move from Millwall in July 2019 had taken an ominous turn for the worse thanks to a shaky start in Sunderland colours.

“Mentally, it’s been tough,” McLaughlin said. “I didn’t do myself justice last season in terms of performances. Football, as they say, is all about confidence and last season I made a few mistakes and my head went down.

“So it’s not been easy but I just had to keep believing in myself as a player, remember the standards I’d set in the past and know I’ve got what it takes to prove myself again

“Not being able to get into the first team was hard to take but you just keep working hard to make sure you get your chance again. Now I’m back in there it will require even more hard work to stay in there because we’ve got a strong squad which will always be the case at a club of Sunderland’s stature.”

McLaughlin looked accomplished alongside the re-assuring figure of Bailey Wright and deserves credit for ensuring goalkeeper Lee Burge did not have a shot to save until stoppage time.

It was Sunderland’s third clean sheet of their League One campaign and now the Black Cats are one of only two clubs able to boast an unbeaten record alongside leaders Ipswich Town.

After a solid, methodical start, the visitors eased their way to victory in Wiltshire after breaking the deadlock in the 37th minute through Charlie Wyke.

He volleyed in his first league goal this season following Lynden Gooch’s cross and his team-mates never looked back

The outstanding passage of play resulted in Sunderland’s second goal, when Chris Maguire slotted home a 57th-minute penalty.

It all began when substitute Jack Diamond turned defence into attack when he won possession just outside the penalty area. Max Power sent Maguire free with a sublime pass only for former Boro defender Jonathan Grounds to illegally halt his run and the striker coolly converted the resultant spot-kick.

Swindon manager Richie Wellens rallied his players and they raised their game, but Parkinson countered their upturn in energy and enthusiasm with reinforcing his defence.

Wyke and Maguire caught the eye by taking turns at dropping back to frustrate the hosts, and for McLaughlin, the strikers’ work-rate typified a togetherness that bodes well for the future.

“We’ve got a really good dressing room,” McLaughlin added.