Sunderland’s much-needed victory away against Doncaster in the reverse fixture was the one that sparked off an improvement in performances under Phil Parkinson.
Since the arrival of Parky at the club in October 2019, Sunderland had been on a wretched run of form up until that Christmas with the team putting in an abundance of joyless performances - with the ostracisation of Aiden McGeady adding to what was a miserable period in the club’s history.
The win at Keepmoat just after Christmas sparked a reawakening of sorts, with three wins and a draw following on from this away win.
In a strange turn of events, the fixture schedule pitted the two teams against each other once more - making it two league games against each other in six.
With the positive run of form gaining momentum, there was hope again on Wearside that this could be the year that Sunderland finally got out of this league.
Parkinson’s style of football was agricultural at best, and mind-numbingly boring at worst. Granted, Sunderland were far more difficult to break down but their attacking play was struggling. It was inconsistent and displayed zero signs of structure or pattern, with a reliance on individual moments of quality key to any successful day at the office.
Moved to a Friday night for the Sky cameras, this game displayed and defined the good (average at best really) and the bad of a Phil Parkinson-style team.
Defensively the team were quite solid, conceding very few chances throughout the game.
The bad was evidently the attacking play. Chances were at a premium throughout with Charlie Wyke up front looking quite isolated and ineffective, though he was not helped by his wingers - specifically Chris Maguire, who offered very little throughout.
One had to feel bad for the home support who did arrive in their big numbers only to see a game where almost nothing of substance or excitement transpired.
Seny Dieng - the goalkeeper who scored the header for QPR against us this season - received the man of the match. His influence in the game became crucial near the end when Sunderland’s attempted to pile the pressure on, though their idea of pressure was akin to pumping up a burst tyre.
The on-loan QPR man Dieng comfortably gathered Watmore’s glancing header and then scrambled a snapshot from the substitute behind in the closing seconds, with Phil Parkinson’s men finishing the stronger side.
Alas, it wasn’t to be and Sunderland moved up to fifth in the table showing steady improvement after a serious wobble at Christmas. Whilst the football was not pretty, Parkinson was getting some credible results.
It remained to be seen whether they (along with the manager) were going to last the duration.