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Talking Points: Maguire is the man for the big occasion - Sunderland’s superior fitness counts

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We needed to win this one, and we did. Chris Maguire is the man for the big occasion and once again scored a fantastic goal, but others - including Nick Allamby & Tom Flanagan - deserve praise also.

Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Maguire - the man for the big occasion

Who else but Chris Maguire would have bagged that all important winner? He wasn’t at his best in last week’s defeat to Portsmouth, but he came into yesterday’s game roaring.

I mentioned it on yesterday’s pubcast, but Maguire has gone from being the one blowing out of his backside on 60 minutes to the one sprinting to close down defenders in injury time.

Phil Parkinson said he’d put in some real work to improve his fitness behind the scenes, and that work is really paying off for him. He no longer looks like a player who plays one good game in five, but more like the consistent menace to opposition defenders that we all wished he could be last season.

Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The best defence in the league proving pivotal to success; Flanagan impressive

Six goals conceded in 11 games, the best defensive record in the league and five clean sheets in six - Phil Parkinson has to be given huge credit for the improvement at the back.

Joel Lynch missed yesterday’s game due to the injury he sustained last week and was replaced by Tom Flanagan, who I have to reserve special praise for.

Flanagan came into the team for a huge game on his weaker side after missing the last three weeks, performing admirably and, in truth, he saved us two points with his tackle on Kayden Jackson at the end.

He’s had his fair share of detractors since he arrived on Wearside, but make no mistake about it, Flanagan has been one of the most improved players in the squad since Parkinson took over.

Jordan Willis was immense, yet again, and is setting the tone for the defence, whilst Bailey Wright had his best game so far, ensuring James Norwood never had a sniff.

Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Response to last week’s defeat was massive

There was a lot of criticism thrown at the team after last week’s defeat, but yesterday’s response showed our run of form since the Christmas period was no flash in the pan.

Games such as the ones against MK Dons, Tranmere and Ipswich were ones that we would have probably lost earlier in the campaign, but Parkinson seems to have instilled real determination and character within the squad.

The first half wasn’t pretty, but we got through it and came back out after the with purpose. That sort of character WILL get us promoted.

Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Fitness levels making a difference

Nick Allamby has made a massive difference to the overall fitness of the squad, who yet again showed with their superior energy levels that they have plenty in the tank towards the end of games.

Every week we seem to get fitter, stronger and capable of sustaining our energy levels for the full 90 minutes.

Last season, and at the beginning of this one, Sunderland were incapable of producing a good second 45 and would often concede late, but if anyone is going to notch late on now, it appears to be Parkinson’s red and whites - and a lot of that credit needs to be given to Allamby.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images