Bristol City loanee Bailey Wright impresses on his Sunderland debut - as Phil Parkinson weighs-up permanent move
It was almost a perfect beginning.
A Chris Maguire free-kick, nodded across goal by Joel Lynch - and all it needed was a touch from Bailey Wright.
Ultimately, he couldn’t oblige. His effort somehow flew over and Wright was deprived of a goal just three minutes into his debut.
But rather than let that derail his first outing for the Black Cats, Wright rallied and went on to deliver a performance which offers much promise for the remainder of his six-month loan spell.
Playing at the centre of Sunderland’s back three, Wright looked composed throughout.
There were signs of some weaknesses. At times the Australian looked vulnerable up against the lively Morgan Ferrier and indeed, there was one moment in the second half where Ferrier managed to turn away from Wright and surge towards goal. A more clinical, or perhaps confident, striker would have done better.
But those moments of vulnerability were fleeting, and will likely be eradicated once Wright builds-up his match sharpness. It has, of course, been almost four months since the centre back completed a competitive ninety minutes.
It was abundantly clear, though, that Wright was willing to put his body on the line to protect Sunderland’s slender lead, making a number of crucial blocks and interceptions.
His impact at set-pieces, both in an attacking and defensive sense, is clear too. Last year, Sunderland were notably lacking in height and physicality, two traits which - like it or not - are required in the third tier.
His addition goes a long way to rectifying that and, along with Lynch, Jordan Willis and Charlie Wyke, gives the Black Cats a potent threat from set-pieces - enabling them to make the most of Maguire’s deliveries.
There is another side to Wright’s game too. While he is willing to do the nitty gritty, he is also composed in possession and able to spray the ball out confidently from the back.
Such traits are key in Parkinson’s system, and offer hope that Wright will prove an astute addition – with Sunderland monitoring his progress ahead of a potential permanent move in the summer.