Sunderland built on Wednesday’s Carabao Cup upset against Sheffield United with a 2-1 victory over MK Dons at the Stadium of Light to ease pressure on Jack Ross.
Two marvellous quick-fire goals from Max Power and Luke O’Nien put Sunderland two-nil up going into the half time interval.
In the second half the visitors pulled one back through George Williams, but Sunderland were able to hold onto the three points, helping the Lads to keep up with the pace-setters at the top of League One.
Jack Ross made three changes to the side that beat Sheffield United 1-0 in the third round of the Carabao Cup, and six from the team that drew 1-1 with Bolton in the last league match.
After being replaced by Lee Burge in mid-week Jon McLaughlin came back into the starting 11, with Joel Lynch and Laurens de Bock making their league debuts after impressing in mid-week. Jordan Willis captained the side for the first time, with Lynden Gooch also replacing the injured Elliot Embleton. Aiden McGeady missed out with an ongoing foot injury, with Marc McNulty also not in the squad.
First Half Action
Sunderland began the match in a positive manner, and looked to carry on the momentum from the Sheffield United cup win in this League One match. Max Power scored the only goal on Wednesday through a spectacular long-range strike, and arguably bettered that with 24 minutes on the clock against MK Dons.
Maguire slipped the ball through to Wyke, who tapped it back to Power. The former Wigan man hit the ball first time and his thunderbolt curled into the top left corner and beyond Lee Nicholls.
The Black Cats stepped up the tempo from there and the home side struck the woodwork a few minutes later. De Bock crossed the ball into the penalty area and O’Nien nodded it off the outside of the left post.
O’Nien was denied by the Dons goalkeeper not long after when Maguire’s corner from the right was whipped towards the near post, and the former Wycombe midfielder directed the ball at the goal, but Nicholls provided a fantastic stop.
It proved to be third-time lucky for O’Nien as he finally doubled Sunderland’s tally when Conor McLaughlin lobbed the ball over the top of the MK Dons backline, putting him in behind and one-on-one with the Dons goalkeeper. Nicholls hesitated coming off his line and eventually rushed out, allowing O’Nien to elegantly lift the ball over the goalkeeper and despite MK Dons’ attempts to clear, it passed the goal line.
Just before the half time interval, the referee - Paul Marsden - provided the match with a controversial moment. In front of both Jack Ross and Paul Tisdale, an off-the-ball incident between David Kasumu and Max Power lead to Power holding his face on the ground. When the ball went out of play, the referee went to deal with the incident, and after discussions with the fourth official, he gave a yellow card to both Kasumu and Power, leaving the home crowd frustrated as they believed the Dons player should have been dismissed.
Second Half Action
Not long after the restart, Max Power nearly had a third in two games when Gooch’s initial effort was cleared but only to the ex-Wigan midfielder, who hit the ball on the volley, meaning Nicholls had to dive down to his right to stop it creeping into the bottom left corner.
MK Dons halved the deficit with 55 minutes on the clock when Kasumu chipped the ball into the penalty area and Conor McGrandles nodded it over Jon McLaughlin, who came off his goal line and despite Jordan Willis’ efforts to clear for the Black Cats, the ball was pushed over by George Williams.
Around ten minutes later, Jack Ross made his first substitution, with Denver Hume coming on for the Black Cats, replacing Laurens de Bock, who impressed again following Wednesday’s cup win.
Chris Maguire was not far away from increasing Sunderland’s advantage when O’Nien cut the ball back from the by-line inside the penalty area to Maguire, who fired it just over the bar.
MK Dons pushed for an equaliser, and weren’t far away from getting it when a corner for the visitors was cleared, but only to Kasumu, who struck the ball on the half-volley, but it flew narrowly over the crossbar.
In the remainder of the match, the Sunderland manager used his final changes when Will Grigg replaced Charlie Wyke, and in injury time, George Dobson freshened up midfield with Lynden Gooch coming off.
After the six minutes of added time was completed, the referee blew his full time whistle and the match ended Sunderland AFC 2-1 MK Dons.
Momentum is slowly building for the Black Cats, with two wins inside a week putting us back on track after a difficult outing at Bolton last Saturday.
We kept up the pace with the top of the table as majority of the teams around us all picking up three points, so the win was all the more important. Two absolutely spectacular goals from Max Power and Luke O’Nien sealed the win, but after an impressive first half, I don’t think that we played as well in the second.
For Jack Ross, I think that the only objective for this match was to claim all three points, and then, as we gain more and more momentum, the performances will improve and then we can start winning games convincingly - but for now, building from the bottom is crucial and hopefully this three points can help guide us to a winning run.
Now, we face a trip to Sincil Bank as we face Lincoln City in the league for the first time in 58 years. It has been a successful time for the Imps, but the recent departure of the Cowley brothers have lead to Lincoln only gaining one point in 12, which included a 6-0 thumping of Oxford United and a 2-1 defeat to Blackpool. For the first time in two weeks, we don’t have a match on a Tuesday or Wednesday so hopefully a full week will help us to another three points.