Sunderland boss Phil Parkinson reacts to Brandon Taylor's performance against Gillingham ahead of crunch league fixtures
On an evening were Sunderland’s season plunged new depths, there was one shining light – the performance of promising youngster Brandon Taylor at the heart of defence.
Injury-hit Sunderland were dealt a double blow in the build-up to the 600-mile round-trip to Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium with first choice centre-back pairing Jordan Willis and Joel Lynch both ruled out of the game.
Sunderland, who were also missing George Dobson, Charlie Wyke, Lynden Gooch and Elliot Embleton through injury, played a wing-back system against Steve Evan’s side with Taylor in a back three alongside Alim Ozturk and Laurens De Bock.
And the 20-year-old impressed, the stand-out defender for Sunderland who had Luke O’Nien and Denver Hume in the wing-back role.
Taylor produced a commanding display and he won praise from his manager after stepping up with an impressive performance in only his third appearance for the first team.
The young defender’s performance was one of the few plus points on a desperate night for Sunderland who conceded in extra-time and failed to manage a single attempt on target.
Parkinson said: “He played in the game against Grimsby before I came in, which obviously I watched, but I thought he was excellent [against Gillingham].
“That was a tough game, a completely different game to what he’s played in the Under-23s, with the ball flying in the box and coming forward quickly.
“I thought he showed good calmness and did really well, and I’m pleased for him.
“I’m pleased for the academy as well that a young player has come in and stepped up to the plate. It’s a good sign for us.”
The Sunderland squad will return to training on Thursday at the Academy of Light ahead of the biggest game of the season, the visit of Coventry City in League One on Saturday with Burton Albion travelling to Wearside the following Tuesday.
Parkinson hopes to have Willis and Lynch back available for the crunch double-header, with Tom Flanagan also back from international duty but he knows in Taylor he has someone he can turn to if required following the display against Gillingham.