LEE JOHNSON admits he was delighted when Aiden O’Brien’s proposed deadline-day move to Doncaster Rovers collapsed, and expects the Irishman to play a prominent role in the rest of Sunderland’s promotion push.

O’Brien was in fine form yesterday evening as the Black Cats thrashed Crewe Alexandra 4-0 to move back into the automatic-promotion positions in League One.

The forward put Terell Thomas under pressure in the first half, forcing the Crewe centre-half to put the ball through his own net, before two goals from the in-form Ross Stewart either side of the half-time interval extended Sunderland’s lead.

Leon Dajaku completed the scoring, galloping clear from the halfway line before drilling home a fine finish, as the Black Cats claimed their biggest away win since they scored four goals at Lincoln last December.

Sunderland’s attacking players have been in sparkling form in the last few weeks, with O’Brien, who might well have left at the start of September had things turned out differently, helping to lead the charge.

“If you ask Briz (O’Brien), the communication was there right from the start,” said Johnson. “I just said to him that at that moment, I had a lot of new signings and I needed to know what I've got - you are trusted and I'd love you to stay, but if you want to play every single minute every week, then it might be better to go and get games.

“But I was very happy when the loan move didn't go through because it meant that he was like an extra signing, if you like.”

Johnson was delighted with his side’s professionalism last night, with the Black Cats soaking up some early Crewe pressure before slicing their opponents apart on the counter-attack.

The win, which followed hot on the heels of Saturday’s victory at Gillingham, showcased Sunderland’s attacking strengths, and helped comprehensively draw a line under the four-goal thrashing at Portsmouth that preceded the international break.

“We had a couple of warning signs from them, with some counter-attacks that we didn't quite finish, but once we got that through spell, I thought we were the real deal in that 15 minutes before half-time,” said Johnson.

“It had to be a professional performance after that, and once the third went in we looked after a couple (more). It was a good, professional win.”

Alex Pritchard had a hand in Sunderland’s opening three goals, and while the midfielder was forced off shortly after Stewart converted his corner to make it 3-0, Johnson does not think his problem is too serious.

“As he went to break, one of their lads yanked him and it was a bit of a whiplash-type injury,” said the Sunderland boss. “He was stiff at half-time and we tried to get some work into him, but he only lasted 15 minutes or so in the second half. I don't think it'll be too bad. I thought he was really good in the first half.”