AFC Wimbledon will tonight be seeking to bounce back quickly from Saturday’s disappointment – and Nick Daws believes that the game at the Stadium of Light offers the perfect chance to do so.
The Dons have performed with credit on the two previous visits to Sunderland in recent years, without getting a result, and coming away from Wearside with something to show for it would strengthen belief that recent defeats have just been a blip after a positive start to the season. Wimbledon will come up against a side revitalised by new manager Lee Johnson, who guided the Black Cats to an impressive 4-0 win at Lincoln City on Saturday. Former Dons loanee Charlie Wyke scored twice in that game and he could be a key player for Johnson, who has had a bright start to his managerial career with Oldham, Barnsley, and Bristol City.
Below are quotes from both camps, plus stats, and a look back at previous meetings, ahead of tonight's game (7.00 pm kick-off).
“The squad have been excellent since the first day of pre-season, and the time you get to work with the team ahead of a game probably becomes more valuable than when you have a full week to prepare. It’s about getting those messages across to the players, which the gaffer, myself and the other coaches have done. We go to Sunderland, a fantastic place to go, fresh and raring to go.
“It’s a brilliant game, a perfect game. We did well there last year in terms of performance levels and we proved when we went to Hull that nothing phases us. We’ve just got to eradicate the mistakes that caused the defeats in the last couple of league games. If we do that I think we will be in a good position to win the game, which is what we will try to do.
“Charlie (Wyke) is a threat when he’s at his best. They’ve rotated a little bit since Lee became manager, but to score two goals and do so well you probably expect that he will play, so we’ve got that challenge to face. If it’s not him, they have plenty of threats. They are a good team with a well-balanced squad, I’d imagine with one of the biggest budgets in the league. They probably shouldn’t be in this league, if they are being honest, but we also realise how hard it is so they will be thinking that playing AFC Wimbledon at home isn’t going to be a given. Nobody in their right mind would think that. It’s going to be an interesting test.
"Lee has done well. He went from Oldham to Barnsley, and I had some games against him when I was at Scunthorpe, and he did a cracking job at Bristol City. He finished his job there and he’s now got a really good role at Sunderland. He’s a good coach and experienced at this level for one so young. He will try to set up his team to beat us and we’ve got to try to set our team up to beat them. Whoever comes out on top will be pleased and whoever doesn’t will be disappointed.
“The only shame is that there won’t be 30,000 there because it really would be something exceptional for the players. It’s a fantastic place to play, I was fortunate enough to play there myself and score there after it first opened when I was at Bury. I have fond memories of the place and I’m looking forward to us going there and doing ourselves justice.”
“I’m very happy that there’s a buzz. The fans have got to be allowed to do whatever they want, the fans are the club. If they want to get carried away by the euphoria of a result or a run, then brilliant. If it’s a bit more pessimistic, that’s okay too. For me, it’s so simple in that it’s about the process. I can’t guarantee a score line, but what I should be able to guarantee is a consistency in the philosophy.
"I was so enthused with the way the players took in the detail and were able to implement it so quickly in what was a difficult game at this level. That’s very encouraging moving forward, but we’ve got to keep chipping away at it. They did 85 per cent of what I asked them to do, and we have to keep on raising the bar.”
Wimbledon have lost the last three matches versus Sunderland, but the first two of those were just by the odd goal. The first meeting since AFC Wimbledon’s reformation was in August 2018 and it ended in real controversy as Bryan Oviedo appeared to handle on the line, denying Wimbledon a late penalty chance, but Sunderland held on for a 2-1 win at the Cherry Red Records Stadium. Joe Pigott had put Wimbledon ahead with a lovely volley, but two goals by Lee Cattermole won it for Sunderland. Click on the link below to watch highlights from that match.
Our last visit to Sunderland ended in a 3-1 defeat in August 2019 after Kwesi Appiah had equalised for the Dons, and on 1 February earlier that year the Black Cats won 1-0 through a goal by Aidan McGeady. Going further back to January 1987, the Dons earned a dramatic 2-1 FA Cup victory at Plough Lane with our current manager scoring the winner! Overall, the Dons have won seven, drawn two, and lost five in matches versus Sunderland. See our previous article by Stephen Crabtree, which focuses on a 2-2 draw from 1990 when John Scales struck a last-gasp equaliser.
Form guide (last six, starting with most recent)
Last time out
Lincoln 0-4 Sunderland
Charlton 5-2 Wimbledon
Don't forget that you can catch all the action from the Stadium of Light on iFollow. Match passes will be available for £10 and it will be available to supporters based overseas. Mikey T and Rob Cornell will be providing live WDON commentary on iFollow. You can access live coverage by visiting the Match Centre. If you have any issues please e-mail iFollow@efl.com .
Join George Jones for live-build-up from the Stadium of Light. George, Stuart Deacons, and the team will be previewing the game, and providing post-match reaction afterwards.