With the games coming around thick and fast, Sunderland returned to the Stadium of Light to face AFC Wimbledon. There was no time to relax though as it was the perfect opportunity to build momentum after three successive wins, two of which came in the league. Going into the game Sunderland were still unbeaten and having picked up an impressive win at home to Portsmouth and a hard-earned point at Portman Road, things were looking promising. The visitors came into the game following a defeat away to Ipswich, where Kayden Jackson’s injury time goal sealed a 2-1 win for The Tractor Boys. Evidently, Wally Downes’ side would be no walk over; although three points was the expectation as always.
Jack Ross made just one change from the side that won 2-1 over Rochdale on Tuesday night, with Conor McLaughlin dropped to the bench and Denver Hume moving back into the starting eleven. With the transfer window deadline quickly approaching, Sunderland are still in search for a left-back as this has been identified as a clear flaw in the opening five league games. Marc McNulty missed out once again due to the knock he picked up at home to Portsmouth, so it was another chance for Charlie Wyke to prove his worth.
AFC Wimbledon opted for an interesting three at the back set up, a formation that Sunderland could surely take advantage of, especially down the flanks. Michael Folivi led the line, a loanee from Watford, alongside former Crystal Palace forward Kwesi Appiah; so, there was definitely enough quality in the oppositions attack to act as a threat to the Sunderland back four. However, with Jordan Willis and Alim Ozturk both on a good spell of form, it would prove difficult to even get a sight on goal.
The game commenced in beautiful sunshine, hopefully the performance would have the same energy. Having fallen behind in three of the first four league games so far this campaign the Sunderland faithful were hopeful that we could strike first this time around. This was exactly the case as after just eight minutes on the clock Jon McLaughlin’s punt forward caused trouble in the Wombles’ defence. Chris Maguire was able to snatch onto possession and then superbly lift the ball over Nathan Trott in the Wimbledon goal, to give Sunderland a 1-0 advantage.
Sunderland didn’t stop there though, they continued to press in an attempt to double the scoreline and increase their goal difference. A couple of half chances went begging, which proved costly as a rare Wimbledon attack resulted in the ball flying past Jon McLaughlin into the Sunderland net. Appiah’s diving header from six yards out was the leveller, making it a very familiar 1-1 at the break. Although the scoreline suggested otherwise it was a very dominant first half from Sunderland, with Wimbledon’s only attempt on target so far producing a goal.
The second half was underway, with most of those in red and white still confident that Sunderland would claim all three points at full time. As expected, it was the home side who got off to the better start, with Lynden Gooch’s effort earning a Sunderland corner. Grant Leadbitter’s delivery was headed away, but only as far as Chris Maguire, who hammered towards a crowd of bodies in front of the Wimbledon goal. Fortunately for him it deflected into the back of the net, giving Maguire his second goal of the match and helping Sunderland retake the lead, 2-1.
The pressure continued from Sunderland, with Charlie Wyke having his effort blocked and Will Grigg dragging his shot wide of the post when introduced to play. Eventually, Sunderland sealed the win with Chris Maguire completing his hat-trick after heading home. This was just the fourth ever hat-trick to be scored by a Sunderland player at the Stadium of Light, but more importantly it was another three points towards the target of automatic promotion.
It was another convincing win from Sunderland, showing Jack Ross even more reasons why the current squad is good enough to challenge for the league title this season. Although Wimbledon will be struggling around the bottom half of the table come the end of the season, it is still a very good result and takes nothing away from the performance, which was hard to fault. Chris Maguire showed yet again how important he will be this season, so long as we can keep him fit and in the line up. With eleven points from the first five league games, Sunderland are off to a good start and hopefully can continue this winning mentality.
We now face a tricky trip to Turf Moor against Premier League side Burnley on Wednesday night. This could be a great opportunity to see some new faces in the squad, as Burnley are likely to play a heavily rotated team. It will be a huge test, but also a huge opportunity to impress and show our quality as underdogs.