The three Sunderland players who saw their stocks rise at Oxford United after a spirited showing

It may be early in the season, but some Sunderland players are already starting to make a real impression.

Sunday, 20th September 2020, 4:45 pm

But at Oxford, it was arguably three under the radar players who impressed the most.

Here, we take a look at who had a good day at the Kassam Stadium – and who has work to do:

A good day for…

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The three Sunderland players who saw their stocks rise at Oxford

Lynden Gooch

Parkinson said after the draw with Bristol Rovers that Gooch was ‘unlucky’ not to start – and he thrust himself further into the manager’s vision with an impressive cameo at the Kassam Stadium.

It wasn’t just his breathtaking goal, but his energy, flair and determination which proved vital as Sunderland saw out the win.

In the dying stages, he was even filling in at wing-back after Luke O’Nien was left forward while Oxford launched a counter-attack.

Surely now, the American must start against Peterborough United.

Who drops out the side is another question.

Grant Leadbitter

This was the first time Leadbitter had started a league game since Boxing Day, but he didn’t look out of place.

He sat and protected the defence and broke up play well, helping to protect the back three and then drive Sunderland forward.

Leadbitter was steady rather than spectacular, but admirably fulfilled what he was tasked with by Phil Parkinson.

With George Dobson suspended, he could now be set for a run in the side.

Tom Flanagan

Some real questions have been asked of the defender since the arrival of Arbenit Xhemajli, but Flanagan has cemented his place in the Black Cats’ back three.

He was sturdy at the back at Oxford and also looked good in possession, while his ability to cover the left flank allowed Denver Hume to get forward – often to great effect.

So while the calls for Xhemajli to be included won’t be silenced just yet, Flanagan is continuing to prove why he deserves the starting shirt.

A bad day for…

Will Grigg

When the team sheets landed at 2pm, it was a surprise to see Grigg omitted.

For all the striker is yet to get off the mark in the league, he has put in some promising displays and looked to be developing into the lone striker Phil Parkinson wants.

But Danny Graham was given the nod against Oxford, with Grigg an unused substitute.

The onus is now on the striker to force his way back into contention.

Aiden O’Brien

O’Brien’s all-round performance was fairly promising – he was always a willing running and stretched the Oxford defence on numerous occasions.

But he will be disappointed that he left the Kassam Stadium without at least one goal under his belt.

Twice in quick succession the former Millwall man should have scored – first diverting a Hume cross wide before then failing to connect with O’Nien’s low delivery.

Here’s hoping this was just one off-day, and that it doesn’t become a recurring them.

Karl Robinson

Animated as ever on the touchline, Robinson cut a frustrated figure in the second half as a large number of decisions fell the way of Sunderland.

His Oxford side looked disjointed and didn’t play the possession-based brand of football they’ve become renowned for.

A disappointing afternoon for the hosts.

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