Sunderland AFC 1-0 AFC Wimbledon
Sunderland returned to a winning note on Saturday afternoon as a Carl Winchester thunderbolt separated the Lads from AFC Wimbledon at the Stadium of Light.
The crucial winner 64 minutes in was enough to seal a comeback from Tuesday’s first league defeat, making it three league wins from four for Lee Johnson’s men.
Johnson opted to give Alex Pritchard a first league start for the club, with Dan Neil slotting back in at left-back. A minor injury to Lee Burge in the warm-up saw a late change, Anthony Patterson coming in and keeping a clean sheet on his Sky Bet League One debut.
Wimbledon constructed a good move to create the first sniff at goal 10 minutes in, when Ethan Chislett curled just past the far post from 15 yards out.
The Lads almost worked a threat of their own midway through the first half, as Dan Neil’s pinpoint delivery from the left was inches away from the clever run of Ross Stewart – Lynden Gooch was then denied well from close range by Nik Tzanev in the Dons’ goal.
Gooch later picked out Neil’s run at the back post, but the stand-in left-back headed off target. Further attempts at service into the box came and went for the Lads, who were forced to remain patient as a goalless first half wound down to a close.
The second half began with Sunderland on the front foot once more, as Gooch played through Stewart, who forced Tzanev into a smart stop with an effort under pressure. Aiden McGeady then dinked a ball to the back post where Gooch and Luke O’Nien were arriving, but both players made a leap on the same ball and saw it divert away for a goal-kick.
The pressure continued – Elliot Embleton forcing a splendid Tzanev save from distance and Pritchard side-footing a tidy effort just wide – and the deadlock was finally broken 19 minutes into the second half.
Winchester found space ahead of him 30 yards from goal and let fly with a roaring strike, which took a slight deflection on its way into the bottom-left-hand corner to raise the roof off the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats maintained their dominance throughout the remainder of the 90, Callum Doyle coming almighty close to scoring his first senior goal but for a point-blank Tzanev save and subsequent clearance from the Dons’ backline.
Wimbledon were forced to take a gamble as the clock ticked, substitute Jack Rudoni rising to head their premium chance – Dennis Cirkin making a crucial goal-line clearance. Aaron Pressley was then denied with another header in added time by a smooth Patterson claim.
The Lads held firm for a welcome return to winning ways, three healthy points and a maiden clean sheet of the campaign as attention turns to the Carabao Cup at Blackpool on Tuesday night.
SUNDERLAND AFC: Patterson; Winchester, Flanagan, Doyle, Neil; O’Nien, Embleton (Wright 82’); Gooch, Pritchard (Cirkin 72’), McGeady (Broadhead 72’); Stewart.
Subs not used: Burge, Alves, O’Brien, Hawkes.
AFC WIMBLEDON: Tzanev, Lawrence, Woodyard, Nightingale, Alexander, Hartigan, Palmer, Assal (Mebude 78’), Chislett (Rudoni 61’), McCormick (Pressley 70’), Heneghan.
Subs not used: Oualah, Marsh, Guinness-Walker, Kalambayi.