Phil Parkinson highlights impact this Sunderland player had in Oxford win

Phil Parkinson says Grant Leadbitter took his opportunity after Sunderland secured three vital points at the Kassam Stadium.

Parkinson opted to play Leadbitter after George Dobson saw red in the dying stages of last week’s 1-1 draw with Bristol Rovers.

The experienced midfielder got the nod ahead of Josh Scowen, with Parkinson eager to keep Max Power in a more advanced position where he has looked bright so far this season.

The club captain rewarded him with a controlled display that was particularly key in a second half that his side dominated.

Grant Leadbitter impressed on his first league start of the season

Parkinson has described the 34-year-old’s form and fitness since returning to the game as a ‘bonus’, and he underlined his potential importance ahead of what is set to be a long and arduous season.

“Granty is more suited to that role, that's his position,” Parkinson said.

“And I thought he was very good today. He played with a lot of nous.

“As I've said previously, he's come back and his fitness levels are excellent. He's in a good place both mentally and physically.

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“He's desperate to play and it doesn't matter whether you're 18 or 34, you deserve an opportunity and I thought he took it today.”

Parkinson had also raised eyebrows before the game by opting to drop Will Grigg to the bench.

Danny Graham was handed his second full debut for the club, before being replaced in the latter stages by Charlie Wyke.

Parkinson said Wyke was ‘excellent’ in his cameo and said Graham, like Leadbitter, had played with a ‘nous’ that was important to the win.

“He played with a lot of nous,” Parkinson said.

“He drew fouls on the edge of the box, backed into defenders.

“He's a good platform for us and a good hold-up player.

“Nothing really dropped for him in terms of a chance and it was always going to be tough for him, he's only had two 30-minute appearances as a sub and often when you come off the bench, the game has slowed down to a certain degree.

"I thought he showed some good signs and he's going to be a really good signing for us.”