Sunderland boss Phil Parkinson makes bold Charlie Wyke claim

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Phil Parkinson says Dion Sanderson will only get better after making his Sunderland debut on Tuesday night.

Sanderson came into the side in place of Jordan Willis, who has had some fitness issues of late.

Rochdale looked to target the Wolves loanee in the opening stages of the game, but the 20-year-old came through that challenge to deliver a solid performance.

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Parkinson expects more from the defender as he gets more minutes under his belt, but said there was evidence at the Crown Oil Arena to show why he had been so keen to bring him to the club on deadline day.

Dion Sanderson made a steady start to his Sunderland career at the Crown Oil Arena.Dion Sanderson made a steady start to his Sunderland career at the Crown Oil Arena.
Dion Sanderson made a steady start to his Sunderland career at the Crown Oil Arena.

"Dion will get better and better,” Parkinson said.

"Everybody who knows centre-half positions knows that you need a centre-half who can join in play, to make the extra man in midfield, to create those overloads in wide areas, and he did that well tonight.

"He will get fitter, but it was a good debut,” he added.

"To make our system work, we have to have players who can step in with the ball and create three-versus-twos in wide areas.

"When he first came in he'd had a scan on his groin and had missed some training so he is still getting fitter.

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"It was a little bit of a gamble throwing him in tonight but he is an accomplished player who has played in the Championship, and he handled it well."

Parkinson is hoping that Sanderson has not picked up an injury, with the youngster at one stage struggling with a knee problem during the second of the 2-2 draw.

"I hope that's OK,” he said.

"He just caught a nerve and couldn't feel his knee for a few seconds, which is always a worry.

"But it shows his toughness that he wanted to stay on, and we are pleased with him as a signing. He gives us good pace and athleticism."

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Parkinson moved to a 3-4-3 system for the game, and insisted that his side had deserved three points from the contest.

The Black Cats boss had also raised eyebrows with the four changes made to his starting XI.

One player who continues to make the most of his opportunities, however, is Charlie Wyke. The striker scored his third goal in four league games and Parkinson says his all-round display was evidence of why he is currently top of the pecking order.

"You're not going to get too many better centre-forward performances than that tonight,” Parkinson claimed.

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"He scored a goal, had a good chance in the second half, led the line well, and ran himself into the ground for the team.

"I've said to him that the boxes he has to tick are to hold the ball up when we are in possession, stretch teams, be reliable when the ball comes up to him, and the goals and the chances will come on the back of that.

"Earlier in the season he was frustrated that he wasn't scoring, and the rest of his game wasn't in place for the team for him to be able to score.

"Now we are seeing him take confidence from doing all the basic things well, and he is getting the goals on the back of that."