Sunderland raced into a 2-0 half time lead against MKDons thanks to great strikes from Power and O’Nien but made hard work of seeing it out in the second 45. Still, it's a win, and a well-deserved one, and three points we'll happily take home, to work, and to wherever we choose to discuss the season to date.
Under normal circumstances (i.e. a few years ago), Sunderland winning away at Burnley and Sheffield Utd would have raised no more eyebrows than Donald Trump saying something daft, but now we’re down where we are, it’s regarded, if not referred to, as giant-killing. It’s not that long since the home fans at Turf Moor chanted “going down” and we replied with “so are we”. Neither of us did that season, but times change, and soon our cup exploits will be called giant-killing as well as regarded thus. It does, however, raise questions as to how we, with “fringe” players filling the starting places, can do better against Prem teams than our “first” eleven can against League One opponents. One for Ross to ponder, as those “fringe” players have performed admirably in those two cup games. New boys de Bock and Lynch were as solid as they could be – no nonsense players who don’t seem the sorts to do anything they’re not supposed to. Defenders first, last, and everything in between. Lynch puts me in mind of what Marc “it only hurts when I kick a ball” Wilson would have been like had he weighed a bit more and had bones and muscle instead of balsa wood and bits of string.
Anyway, enough of that, and back to the business of the day against the MK Dons. Definitely not Wimbledon. Oh no. Wednesday's performance obviously gives Ross food for thought - plan for another "hit them on the break while conceding bulk of possession (League cup)" or "dominate possession and make the most of it" (league). Anyway, for once we didn't bother making selection predictions on the way through, and made do with winning the football card, thus paying for our pre-match libations.
No sign of McGeady, so there had to be a semblance of the Sheffield side. I managed to drop my cap near the bridge, but it was returned by the Farringdon firm, thanks to them recognising my boots. Eh? The magic of social media saves me a few quid. Willis was named as Captain as we sought a league record for number of skippers in one season.
We kicked off south,
McLaughlin Willis Lynch De Bock
Maguire O'Nien Gooch
We kept hold of the ball well in the opening minutes and managed to build an early attack - but the run on the keeper seemed to hurt Wyke, and he needed treatment a few minutes later.
On 14, McLaughlin 2 clipped it over to Maguire, but his cross was scuffled clear at the near post. The Dons broke and won a corner, then a second. Thankfully we sort of dealt with both.
On 21; Maguire won corner on the right, but nowt came of it, then we cut it back from the right and Power curled one the wrong way across the keeper and into the far corner. Wow. Another worldwide from Max, if only for the expression on O'Nien's face - which even I could see from the far end of the ground. Lovely move, lovely goal.
O'Nien looked almost as surprised and happy when he put away the second a few minutes later, when running onto another ball clipped over the top into the inside right channel. He lobbed it over the keeper and just inside the far post before it was headed away, but the linesman was flagging like a someone shouting a semaphore version of Pretty Vacant, so there was no doubt it was the right side of the line. Happy days indeed.
Wyke was thrown to deck as he chased back on 36 for funniest foul of season, then on 38 Gooch twisted and turned in the inside left position but shot wide of far post with left peg. Close, but nee fancy tab.
A tangle l just in their half near the dugouts saw Power shoved in the chest only a few feet from 4th official on 45, and once play had stopped, he was booked, presumably for holding the wrong part of his anatomy, making out he'd been hit In the face. Not clever, Max, and worth the yellow, you daftie. 5 minutes were added, presumably for their injury on the half hour which forced their substitution and allowed a few to take a welcome netty break.
There was still time for a great save low at his left hand post by Big Jon at expense of a corner, which we eventually cleared. Well worth the lead as the whistle went.
No changes for the second half, as we wondered how many we'd get, but it didn't quit work out that way. O'Nien and Maguire broke down the right, then worked it over to left and McLaughlin's shot was deflected for a corner. From that we won a free on the on edge of the box in the inside right position, but it was fired a foot over by Maguire. Very close. Gooch was patient in setting himself up, but it was cleared only to Power, whose clever volley was tipped away from the foot of the post for another corner. Getting closer, Lads. Make it closer.
Somehow, the Dons got a goal on 54, and I won't pretend to understand what happened or how it went in, but most of us presumed it had been disallowed for whatever reason until they carried the ball to the centre spot. Our immediate response was another short corner routine, but Gooch dragged his effort wide of the near post before they broke and forced a save out of Big Jon, going low to his left. After a spell of pressure by the visitors, they swapped Bovery for Agard to give them fresh legs. After a decent first half, the ref went a bit daft and missed a few naughty late ones by the Dons to the chagrin of the home crowd. On 62 Hume replaced de Bock, presumably cos the new Lad was knackered, and having put in a solid defensive shift.
There was a great chase and cut back by O'Nien, from the left, but Maguire's effort off the outside of his boot from the edge was again a foot over. Another free on right was cut back to Power, but his low effort was blocked. Come on Lads, we're better than one goal ahead of these. Power carried the ball away from a Dons corner, but his run ended with a shot well over on 69. Wyke chased down the next break, but his cutback was cleared. Lynch went down on 73 after we scrambled an attack away but got up eventually and re-joined the fray. They brought on Boateng for the nuisance that was Gilbey on 75, then we brought on Grigg for Wyke on 80.
There were six added as we conceded ground and allowed the Dons to push us back, and when Willis carried it up the right to win ground, he earned a great big man-hug from O'Nien - does this make Luke a candidate for yet another Captain?
Dobbers came on for Gooch deep into added time, we held firm -just- their captain was booked for going on too much and was lucky not to get an immediate second yellow for continuing his remonstrations at the ref. Peep. Job done. What had threatened to turn into a rout at half time ended a wee bit close for comfort, but a well-deserved win.
Man of the Match? Tremendous shift from Lynch, solid from de Bock and McLaughlin 2, good work and another corker from Power, but for sheer effervescence, it goes to O'Nien. Nice one, lucky Luke, played like Michael McIntyre on acid. Keep him up there, Ross.