The January arrival produced a brave, battling performance in only his second game since returning from his injury troubles, expertly shielding the defence at one end and instigating a succession of menacing attacks at the other.
"We missed him and we missed his passing range, which certainly gets us out of trouble at times," Howard said.
"His patience and composure on the ball really helps us.
"His quality and his pedigree, obviously coming from Manchester United, means that in taking the ball and in his passing range he's incredible.
"He's a strong runner, he tracks the attacking players deep into our defensive end, he can head the ball and he's strong, so he's got a lot of really good qualities as a holding centre midfielder."
Phil Jagielka described Gibson as a "complete midfielder" ahead of last weekend's City clash and the Derry native will be hoping to prove that again this weekend when David Moyes' men take on Spurs this weekend at Goodison Park.