Steve Parkin gives Joel Lynch update and discusses Sunderland's major selection dilemma
Steve Parkin admits that Phil Parkinson has a big decision to make as he weighs up which side he will name to face Rochdale on Tuesday night.
Sunderland have a hectic schedule over the next month, and face another crucial game when they travel to Oxford United at the weekend.
Parkinson resisted the urge to tinker on Saturday, making just one enforced change despite the 2-0 defeat to Portsmouth a week previous.
He has a number of players knocking on the door, including the four January signings who are yet to start a game since arriving on Wearside.
Parkinson has pointedly kept a settled side together during a run of games that has seen a significant improvement in results and reignited Sunderland’s promotion ambitions.
The question is how long he can sustain that for and how he finds the right balance between consistency and keeping things fresh.
“The manager is going to think long and hard about it,” Parkin said.
“We felt that it was really important today that we used the whole group in the tactical aspect of how we want to play and involve the players who have not been in the team, so they know what they need to do in and out of possession.
“I think he will make a late call on it.
“The lads who we've brought in will want to play, but it's great for the group to look round and see the quality we've got on the bench, because at some stage it is going to be needed.
“We potentially have suspensions looming and you never know when you might get an injury.
“They're all pushing each other in training and driving each other on.
“That pressure is really good for the football group.”
Sunderland have no new injury worries following the 1-0 defeat to Ipswich Town, though Parkin confirmed that Joel Lynch would not be considered for selection.
Lynch has not sustained any serious injuries from the collision that left him unconscious at Fratton Park, but is still yet to fully recover.
“He is struggling a bit with the rib,” Parkin said.
“I saw him today and it's still a little bit sore.
“He's had the all clear in terms of there being nothing broken, but they can be funny injuries and they can take a while to get over.
“He's not quite right yet.”
Tom Flanagan is set to keep his place on the left of the back three after making an impressive return on Saturday, with one late challenge on Kayden Jackson particularly crucial in preserving his side’s hard-earned lead.
“We do a lot so that those not in the team currently still know their roles and responsibilities,” Parkin said.
“I think that showed at the weekend.
“Tom has been terrific while Lynchy was in team, he's trained properly, he's worked on aspects of his game that he felt he needed to work on.
“He was smashing when he came in and he's saved us a goal with that late tackle.”