Character in Abundance
67% of the possession, 81% pass accuracy with twice as many passes as the opposition (520 vs. 255), 16 shots on goal with 7 on target, 3 goals, and another 3 points... Sunderland steamrollered AFC Wimbledon, if truth be told.
That being said, when Kwesi Appiah peeled away from Luke O’Nien and headed home in the 34th minute, the collective groan of “here we go again” was audible. Was this to be a case of Sunderland struggling to find a way to win?
Thankfully it wasn’t. Sunderland simply carried on with the gameplan that was causing AFC Wimbledon all kinds of problems and bagged another couple of goals to seal the deal.
It was reassuring to see the Lads go immediately back onto the front foot, and although we had to wait until the 53rd minute for Ross’s men to restore the lead, at no point watching that game did it really feel like we weren’t going to win.
The Lads deserve a pat on the back for that. They showed real grit and determination after being drawn level - it was a test of their character that might not have shone through but a few weeks ago. Signs we’re moving in the right direction.
Apart from the aforementioned lapse in concentration, Sunderland’s defence looked really solid again.
Alim Ozturk continued to make a huge difference to the side. He was dominant in the air and didn’t mind getting stuck into the opposition. On the ball he was also really impressive again, too. Every now and then he sweeps a magnificent cross-field ball to compliment his tidy short game - he’s growing in confidence and Sunderland are benefitting massively.
Alongside him, Jordan Willis was also immense. Fast, strong, intelligent, he was every bit the defender we hoped we were signing and looked a cut above most players on the pitch. It will be great bringing in Joel Lynch to provide some competition for these two; he’ll have to work hard to dislodge either one of them.
Luke O’Nien struggled at times today, but overall he gave another solid performance. Going forward he is such an asset, too. His relentless energy allows him to get up and down the line time and time again where he supported the impressive Gooch really effectively.
Finally, Denver Hume deserves a big pat on the back after saturday’s cracking performance. Tidy in defence and eager to get forward and play dangerous balls into danger areas; yes he was caught out a couple of times, but his performance was a huge improvement from his early season showings. I really hope he keeps this up.
Incredible Showing from Forwards
Charlie Wyke and Chris Maguire’s partnership yesterday was nothing short of brilliant. Wyke played as the main forward with Maguire in behind him where he dropped into gaps and looked to make things happen.
Although Maguire rightly comes away with the majority of the plaudits after his hat-trick - including an absolutely incredible opening goal - Wyke also deserves an immense amount of applause for his performance.
The former Bradford man was simply too much for the AFC Wimbledon defence to handle. He was excellent in the air, his hold up play was fantastic, and his willingness to work for the team was commendable.
For the opening goal, Wyke’s presence forced the AFC Wimbledon defence into misjudging the flight of the ball - Maguire’s exceptional finish a sight worth watching again and again. For the second, Wyke again has a hand in causing the opposition defence to panic. And for the third, his run drags AFC wimbledon’s defence apart allowing Maguire the time and space to nod home his hat-trick.
Throughout the game, both players were absolutely tremendous. This could be the start of a great partnership - hopefully we see the same kind of performance again this coming week.