LEE JOHNSON feels he has only “scratched the surface” of what Leon Dajaku is capable of, and expects Sunderland’s German loanee to play an increasingly prominent role in the remainder of the season.

Dajaku hit the headlines in midweek as his sensational solo goal capped the 4-0 victory at Crewe that lifted the Black Cats back into the automatic-promotion positions in the League One table ahead of this afternoon’s home game with Charlton Athletic.

The 20-year-old spent the opening 57 minutes of the game at Gresty Road on the bench though, and has only made one league start since joining Sunderland on a season-long loan from Union Berlin on deadline day.

A niggling thigh injury has held him back, along with Johnson’s understandable desire to expose him to the challenges of life in League One on a gradual basis, but the Sunderland boss is delighted with Dajaku’s attitude and ability, and is confident he will be a big success on Wearside.

“I think we’ve only just scratched the surface at the minute with Leon,” said Johnson. “If you remember, he didn’t have a pre-season at all in terms of games, and physically he was quite a way behind the other players who had been with us through that period of time in pre-season and the first five or six games leading into the closing of the window.

“It’s been a little bit stop-start. He’s only had one start in the league, which was Portsmouth away, which we’ve already declared a bit of a write-off. That’s almost an impossible game to judge any player on.

“What we’ve seen is that the work ethic is there, the willingness to run in behind and close down. We’ve seen the enthusiasm, and we’ve also obviously seen the technical ability with the two finishes that he’s scored, both with his left foot.

“I think there’s improvements to make in his all-round game, in terms of the big picture, with his back to goal. I think he can tidy up a little bit, but his energy, enthusiasm and undoubted skillset can be a real asset to the squad. Hopefully, with (Lynden) Gooch back really soon, it’ll give us that difficult decision of which wingers to pick.”

Gooch is unlikely to be available for today’s game with a Charlton side struggling in 22nd position, but there is a chance Alex Pritchard could feature despite the midfielder having suffered a neck injury during Tuesday’s win at Crewe.

“We’re going to have call late on that,” said Johnson. “Pritch is definitely improving. It was a strange one really – I can only really describe it as a whiplash-type situation. He’s had round-the-clock treatment in terms of medication, oils and acupuncture.

“Everything we could do, we have, and he’s been excellent as well in trying to chase that relaxation within the muscles in the neck. I’m hopeful on that one. Our injury situation feels like it’s improving. It might not be there yet fully, but I would hope that within seven to ten days, if we don’t get any injuries in that period, we’d have nigh on a fully-fit squad to pick from.”

Charlton started the season as one of the sides being tipped for promotion, but Tuesday’s 3-2 home defeat to Accrington proved the end of the road for Nigel Adkins, who was sacked from his position as manager.

The Addicks will be under the caretaker control of Johnnie Jackson this afternoon, with Johnson admitting the change of manager has made it difficult to second-guess how Charlton will line up or look to play.

“Your first thought goes out to the manager because I’ve been in that situation myself,” he said. “It’s not easy. We’ve seen their last few games, and in their last game in particular, they’ll probably be disappointed with what they put in for their manager.

“Nigel’s a well-experienced, strong-minded individual and a great character in the game. I know he’ll bounce back extremely quickly. For whatever reason, it didn’t quite click.

“It’s a tough game for both teams. The dynamic changes for us because there’s nothing historic to go off. Tactically, we don’t know what they’ll have been able to implement during that couple of days.

“It’ll be interesting. The good test and the challenge for the players is to show that tactical agility mentally, and work out what the opposition are doing pretty quickly.”

Sunderland (probable, 4-2-3-1): Hoffman; Winchester, Flanagan, Doyle, Cirkin; O’Nien, Neil; O’Brien, Pritchard, McGeady; Stewart.