Phil Parkinson delivers verdict on League One promotion battle and his tactical tweak that helped Sunderland to victory at MK Dons

Sunderland forced their way back into the League One play-off places with victory over MK Dons as the relentless promotion battle intensifies.

Sunday, 19th January 2020, 1:34 pm

The Black Cats extended their unbeaten run to seven games, including three straight wins, thanks to Lynden Gooch’s stunning strike at Stadium MK.

Sunderland are six points off leaders Rotherham with a game in hand, on a day that saw promotion rivals Rotherham, Wycombe Wanderers, Ipswich Town and Coventry City all win, with Oxford United picking up a point away at Gillingham.

The excellent form of Phil Parkinson’s side has propelled them back into the promotion mix but the Sunderland boss knows there is still a long way to go.

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Max Power and Lynden Gooch celebrate.

Parkinson said: “You expect the top teams to keep winning, we have to make sure we do the same.

“We have done our bit. We can enjoy a good week on the training ground and look forward to next week.

“You have to win all different types of games to be a successful team and we showed that on Saturday.

“It was more resilient. When we’ve had the wins we have had, teams will respect you more and set it up to be as difficult as possible.

“MK Dons did that and I genuinely believe they are a much better team than their league position suggests, they have a lot of good players.

“Sometimes you have to dig in and show resilience and I felt we did that.”

The Black Cats upped the intensity levels second half with Parkinson praising the improving mentality.

Parkinson added: “We just felt that the shape of their team was giving us a few too many problems and we just adjusted one or two areas, tactically, we wanted the whole team to come up the pitch five or ten yards.

“We were a bit off it in terms of intensity levels, we raised our game kicking towards our 4,000-strong travelling army and got a deserved win.

“You need certain characteristics to win away from home, the mentality is stronger, you won’t get it all your own way but the concentration levels have to be right and everyone is doing their jobs."