Sunderland travel to London on Saturday, where they face AFC Wimbledon for the second time in just over a month. The two sides drew 1-1 in December, with Joe Pigott putting the Dons ahead from the penalty spot, before Bailey Wright equalised through a half volley.
Lee Johnson’s side currently sit 10th on the table, having won just one of their last nine League One matches, whereas Glyn Hodges’ side anxiously in 21st, battling to avoid relegation.
Ahead of the match, I spoke to Wimbledon fan Sam Long of Squawka, we discussed how the Dons have faired since our meeting last month, as well as what Sunderland fans can expect from the match.
MC: Last time we spoke The Dons were sat 14th in League One table, one month later and the club sit anxiously in the relegation places - what has went wrong in the past month?
SL: As I said in December, a run of two or three games without a win would see us sucked right back into danger. That’s certainly come to pass. With three consecutive defeats to our name since the trip to the Sunderland – and no league win since December 2nd – things are looking precarious.
Our goal threat has stagnated while our defence is struggling for consistency and shipping sloppy goals.
MC: As a result of that dip in form, do you think Glyn Hodges is under intense pressure of being sacked?
SL: I don’t think Glyn is under any immediate pressure given that the club – and the fans – were under no illusion that this season was going to be a slog.
Even if we were looking for a new manager right now we’d be unlikely to be able to pay someone out of their deal so would be scraping the barrel for those already without a club.
MC: Wimbledon faced a vastly depleted and unfit Sunderland squad due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team last month, do you think that was a massive missed opportunity from your side to pick up three points?
SL: Picking up three points would have been very nice, but football is rarely simple.
Sunderland are far from alone in having suffered COVID outbreaks – we were missing seven first-team players for last weekend’s defeat to Lincoln who were either self-isolating or suffering from COVID. The club would have had just as good a case for postponement as Sunderland in December, but there doesn’t seem to be any consistency from the EFL at the moment.
MC: The Dons shocked many by beating Bristol Rovers away from home in the EFL Trophy and could face Sunderland in the quarter-finals - how do you fancy your teams chances of winning the competition this season?
SL: Couldn’t care less – #bteamboycott.
MC: Wimbledon lost starting loan players Connal Trueman and Steve Seddon, who were both recalled by Birmingham, how big of a loss will those two be?
SL: Seddon will undoubtedly be a loss, but we were fortunate to get him for the first half of the season so can’t have too many complaints. Birmingham are probably looking to secure permanent deals for both players so I can understand why they’d want them back at this stage.
The early recall is always a risk with loanees, I just hope Brighton don’t follow suit and decide they’ve seen enough of Ryan Longman at this level.
MC: In terms of bringing fresh faces, Wimbledon signed goalkeeper Sam Walker from Reading on loan - how do you view that signing and do you think the club possess the finances to bring in the reinforcements you require to avoid relegation?
SL: With 250+ Football League appearances, Walker is now comfortably the most experienced player in our squad. Let’s hope some of it rubs off on our defenders as soon as possible. He’s probably going to be available on a permanent deal in the summer as his deal at Reading is due to expire so should be motivated to prove his worth.
Realistically, we’re going to be bargain hunting and looking at further loans to add to the squad this month – as per usual.
MC: Striker Joe Pigott has scored ten League One goals already this season, do you think he is capable of finishing as top scorer and how much money do you think it would take for Wimbledon to part with him?
SL: The Pig is definitely capable of finishing at the top of the pile. He hasn’t scored for a month and is still just two goals shy of the top of the leaderboard.
His hot streak of six goals in six games feels like an awful long time ago, and he lost momentum after picking up an injury over the Christmas period, but I’ve got full faith that he’ll be back among the goals soon. Our season depends on it!
MC: Who are the eleven players you believe Hodges will select against Sunderland and how do think The Dons will approach the game?
SL: With the dressing room still potentially being affected by COVID and injury problems at centre-back it’s not entirely clear who is going to be available. We recently played a back four for the first time in an age, but think we may be back to 3-5-2 on home turf.
Walker; Kalambayi, Nightingale, Csoka; McLoughlin, Woodyard, Hartigan, Reilly, Guinness-Walker; Longman, Pigott.
MC: The draw in December meant Sunderland remain unbeaten against Wimbledon in League One, do you think the club can pull of a shock win or will the Black Cats be leaving London will all three points?
SL: My money’s on another 1-1 draw.