A hat-trick from Chris Maguire meant that AFC Wimbledon's players came away with nothing to show for their efforts in front of 29,725 spectators at the Stadium of Light.
A fine headed goal from Kwesi Appiah had threatened to give the 295 travelling Dons a first point away from home this season, but two second-half goals from Maguire earned a 3-1 win for Sunderland.
Unfortunately, Wimbledon were unable to build on Appiah's impressive 34th minute equaliser, but Sunderland just proved too strong in the end as they further highlighted their promotion credentials.
Wally Downes selected an unchanged starting line-up after the narrow midweek loss at Ipswich Town. Indeed, it was the same squad with just one exception as fit-again Will Nightingale was on the substitutes’ bench in place of Paul Osew. With former Dons loanee Charlie Wyke leading the attack, Sunderland came into this match seeking a fourth successive victory against a Wimbledon side searching for a first this season.
It was the worst possible start for Wimbledon, as Sunderland opened the scoring inside the eighth minute. Though the eventual finish from Chris Maguire was particularly impressive, the way it came about in the eighth minute was disappointing from a Wimbledon perspective. A long kick from Sunderland keeper Jon McLaughlin found its way towards the edge of the area and with Paul Kalambayi unable to get enough on his header to clear it, the ball found its way to Maguire, who chipped Nathan Trott. At the other end, Wimbledon showed promise when Luke O’Neill shot wide after a good move.
Though Michael Folivi almost got through Sunderland’s defence with sharp forward play, Wimbledon spent the majority of the first half hour on the back foot. Kalambayi was required to make a fine block to stop Aiden McGeady from adding another goal against Wimbledon after his winner last season. Kalambayi also did well to cut-out a cross in a Sunderland move when they had men over in the box. The home faithful were really getting behind their team at this stage, as they sensed that more goals were around the corner. However, it had hardly been incessant pressure against a well drilled Wimbledon defence that had limited the hosts to very little.
In a first-half of few chances, Wimbledon equalised in fine style in the 34th minute. Luke O’Neill found space on the right and delivered a superb cross that picked out Appiah, who headed home clinically. It was a composed finish from the Wimbledon striker and it was yet another demonstration of his heading ability after his goal at Fleetwood Town. The 1-1 half-time score-line hinted that Wimbledon could cause Sunderland more problems with a bit more attacking intent.
However, Sunderland started the second-half with a high tempo and they were back in front in the 53rd minute. A corner from the Sunderland right was only half cleared and Maguire’s deflected shot from just inside the area left Nathan Trott with no chance. There was no let-up from the hosts after taking the lead and Wyke had a great chance to make it 3-1, but Trott did well to save his close-range effort. As we approached the hour mark, Wimbledon had to be braver in pursuit of an equaliser and Sunderland started to expose gaps in the away defence. Maguire should really have earned his hat-trick when he burst through on goal, but he rifled his shot wide. The Dons were also fortunate that Max Power could only guide a close-range header into the arms of Trott.
Wally Downes made two changes around the hour mark. Captain Will Nightingale made his return after injury with Paul Kalambayi making way, before Dylan Connolly was introduced for Michael Folivi. Playing as a central striker, Connolly was straight into the thick of the action and one of his lung-bursting runs down the channels showed promise, but Wimbledon were unable to make anything of the subsequent corner. The Dons were unable to build any attacking momentum though and it was effectively game over in the 79th minute when Maguire headed home for his hat-trick.
Maguire's attacking play had been the major difference between the two teams, Wimbledon having laboured to handle his fine runs and clinical finishing. The Dons finished the match with 10 men as Rod McDonald had to go off injured in the 92nd minute and Wally had used all his substitutes by that stage. Wimbledon's players had certainly acquitted themselves well at the end of a testing week that included the trip to Ipswich, but again left a big stadium with nothing to show for their efforts. Next up, it's a return to home turf against Wycombe Wanderers and that match now assumes greater importance after collecting just one point so far this season.
AFC Wimbledon: Nathan Trott, Luke O'Neill, Rod McDonald, Terell Thomas, Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan, Kwesi Appiah, Michael Folivi (Dylan Connolly), Nesta Guinness-Walker, Paul Kalambayi (Will Nightingale), Callum Reilly (Mitch Pinnock).