Inside Lynden Gooch's highly encouraging Sunderland showing at Hull City and why it came at the perfect time
Sunderland’s draw at Hull City was littered with some impressive individual performances.
Josh Scowen had one of his best games in the centre of midfield, Grant Leadbitter was his usual calming influence and we saw some flashes of the quality that we know Jordan Jones can bring.
But arguably none caught the eye more than Lynden Gooch.
The American was restored to the side after Aiden McGeady’s injury and started the game on the right flank – where he made a strong impact, particularly in the first half.
Sunderland’s best moments in the half came from Gooch’s side of the pitch, where he and Max Power teamed-up to great effect.
Gooch wasn’t shy to drift inside with Power then able to bomb forward on the overlap, and they gave Hull plenty to think about in the early stages.
But not only were the duo getting into good positions, they delivered the quality when it mattered.
Indeed, the 25-year-old himself was at the heart of all Sunderland’s better openings in the first half.
It was Gooch’s clever dinked cross that saw Jordan Jones strike the woodwork, before he delivered an equally as enticing cross only moments later – which Jones duly slotted home.
And it was a clever bit of trickery from the winger that won the Black Cats their penalty too, as he twice got the better of Callum Elder inside the area before a cross struck the hand of the Hull full-back.
It was a glimpse of what we know Gooch is capable of, and now the challenge is to maintain that impact in the final third in the final few weeks of the campaign.
Yet while it was his quality on the ball that caught the eye, his discipline off it was excellent too.
When Power committed himself forward, Gooch would slot back in to a defensive area when Hull looked to hit Sunderland on the counter-attack.
A willingness to do that job is key against a team as quick on the break as the Tigers, whose pacy widemen were a real threat throughout.
And then after Lee Johnson made an attack-minded change in the second half, Gooch was asked to deputise at right-back – where he again performed well, limiting Hull’s opportunities late on and getting into some good areas as the Black Cats sought a leveller.
It’s a performance that will have given the Sunderland head coach plenty to ponder and will no doubt have given him a sense of encouragement ahead of the run-in.
And when Johnson was quizzed on Gooch and his impressive performance post-match, and his answer was telling.
The Sunderland boss was unwilling to limit the academy graduate’s impact to one position, instead hailing his versatility and ability to do jobs in a variety of positions – whether that be out wide or as a ‘false nine-and-a-half’.
That versatility will be key in the coming weeks and – with Gooch returning to form just at the right time, given the important fixtures ahead and the fresh concern over McGeady – he could prove a key player in the final weeks of the campaign.