This is why Phil Parkinson is being cautious in introducing Antoine Semenyo and Josh Scowen
Sunderland’s second-half performance against Rochdale was an understandably sedate one, but supporters will have relished the sight of Antoine Semenyo spinning away from his marker and carrying the ball towards goal late on.
Phil Parkinson has resisted the urge to tinker with his settled formula in recent times, but this brief appearance was enough to see that the Bristol City loanee has something different to offer.
Parkinson says it won’t be long before we see more, believing the youngster is learning his role and showing the application needed to be a success on Wearside.
“I was pleased with Antoine when he came on,” Parkinson said.
“When you come into a club and there's a lot of games, and we're playing a different system, it's not like we're playing a 4-4-2 where everyone knows their roles, there's a period where they've got to understand their role in the system.
“We've had time to do that with Ant, Portsmouth was difficult when he came on for a few reasons but you saw in his involvement on Tuesday night that he's getting more understanding of the expectations of him in that position.
“He's got pace but he's got footballing intelligence as well,” he added.
“I enjoyed watching him when he came on and I enjoy watching him in training as well.
“We had a session on Wednesday with the group who haven't playing so much and the quality was excellent.
“Antoine has got a good attitude as well and that was another one of the reasons we liked him.
“You saw when he came on, he'll work for the team. That's what we're trying to stress, we don't want to carry anyone who isn't working for the team and Antoine he's shown he's willing to do exactly that.”
While Bailey Wright has quickly become a fixture in the side, the other January signings have found regular gametime harder to come by, and that’s something Parkinson attributes to those in the side lifting their game.
In central midfield, Parkinson believes the arrival of Josh Scowen has sparked a surge in George Dobson’s form.
“It's difficult because these players have come in with the intention of playing but the lads [in the team] then go up another level,” Parkinson said.
“That's what competition does and that's why you need good quality players waiting for their moment.
“Look at George Dobson for instance, the last two games he has been right at the top of this game.
“If you're George and Max [Power], you're looking over your shoulder and there's Josh Scowen, who everyone knows is a very, very good player, it forces you to raise your game.
“That's what we need.”
The win over Rochdale also gave Parkinson a chance to give more minutes to Duncan Watmore, whose gametime has suffered due to the form of Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire.
“Duncan is frustrated, he wants more gametime, but equally he understands the lads in those positions are scoring goals and doing well,” Parkinsion said.
“He's a team player.”