Wally Downes wants his players to embrace the "challenge” of playing against Sunderland and build on last weekend’s FA Cup upset.
The Dons go in search of a first League One victory of the year at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon, having disposed of Premier League West Ham in impressive style. While Wimbledon’s need is to make up points at the bottom, the Black Cats are eyeing a quick return to the Championship as they sit fifth in the table in the play-off places.
Sunderland, however, won’t have played for ten days though. They beat Manchester City’s under-21s in the Checkatrade Trophy and their last League One game will have been a fortnight ago when they drew 1-1 at Scunthorpe. Their last league victory, under Jack Ross, came on New Year’s Day when they won 1-0 at Blackpool.
Wimbledon were buoyed with the addition of two further signings before the transfer window closed, plus no further departures from the squad just before the deadline.
Here are key quotes from both camps, plus team news, stats and how you can stay in touch with the game -
Wally Downes –
“It’s a great challenge. West Ham was a big club to play against and this is another big club, but they’ve got to perform. It’s a great challenge for the club and certainly for the players as individuals and as a team.
“We’ve recently changed the formation from what I’d ideally like to play, to a more conservative line-up, but we’ve performed well. We’ve ‘dogged’ out some performances. If that’s the way it’s got to be from now until the end of the season, and we keep it tight and stay in the game as long as we can, then so be it. I certainly wouldn’t want us to be as open as we were in the Fleetwood game. That was very disappointing and perhaps we need to go back to being harder to beat, living off scraps and taking our chances when we get them."
Jack Ross –
“I have spoken enough about how tough I think this league is. I do think there’s a number of cup results this season – not just Wimbledon against West Ham – that have shown the strength of this league. I’m sure they’ll come in as good a frame of mind as they’ve been for a few weeks - given not just winning the game, but the manner of the victory as well. They’ll have huge motivation as well, as they try not to become too detached at the bottom.
Sunderland brought in striker Will Grigg from Wigan Athletic this week, with top scorer Josh Maja -who netted 15 times for the Black Cats - having departed for Bordeaux. Sunderland have also added the loan signings of winger Lewis Morgan (Celtic) and forward Kazaiah Sterling (Tottenham).
Andy Barcham has not recovered in time to be in contention. The winger has not been able to shake off the hamstring injury that kept him out of the match against West Ham. Forward James Hanson (groin) is progressing well, but Saturday’s game will also come too soon for his return. New left back Steve Seddon is back in full training and is in the squad. Albanian winger Egli Kaja is back in light training after shaking off a knee injury.
The Dons took the total number of signings in the January transfer window to five before Thursday’s 11pm deadline, with the permanent addition of midfielder Shane McLoughlin from Ipswich and the loan signing of striker Michael Folivi from Watford.
Form Guide (last six in all competitions, starting with most recent)
Sunderland – WDDWDW
AFC Wimbledon - WLLDWL
Last time out
EFL Trophy – 4th Round:
Sunderland 2, Manchester City U21s 0
FA Cup – 4th Round:
AFC Wimbledon 4, West Ham United 2
Joe Pigott (pictured) scored a cracking opening goal for The Dons after just nine minutes at The Cherry Red Records Stadium back in August, but Sunderland hit back with a brace from Lee Cattermole in a 2-1 victory for the visitors.
Aiden McGeady (Sunderland) – 7 goals
Joe Pigott (AFC Wimbledon) – 8 goals
Dons fans will also be able to pay on the day (for cash from turnstile 71 and card from the ticket office at the Stadium of Light).
If you can’t make the game, tune into our iFollow service with commentary from our Radio WDON team.