By Jon Harries
The magic of the FA Cup can now take a back seat for a few weeks and full focus can shift back to L1 and moving on up the table. “Ominous October” is replaced by “Nervous November” as our fixtures this month on paper look tough with three opponents of the current top six on the horizon. Starting with a trip to the Stadium of Light on Saturday to Phil Parkinson’s Sunderland.
The Dons in their last L1 game, watching paint dry would have been more entertaining than watching the events of the very definition of a “bore draw” against Northampton. Another example of dominant possession without the goals to show for it. One shot on target, although with the FA Cup win it’s now four unbeaten in all competitions with only one goal conceded in that time so as the saying goes every cloud has a silver lining, although we should be very aware in that run our defence has only been tested against the likes of Wigan, AFCW, Northampton and National League side Eastleigh hardly something to get overly excited about just yet, if we can keep the likes of Charlie Wyke quiet on Saturday then perhaps we can give more credence to this boast. Martin is aware of the lack of final third conviction and fingers crossed it can be resolved sooner rather than later.
Sunderland meanwhile have started L1 solidly enough. Undefeated in their last three League One games and only one loss in the league all season at home to Portsmouth, I’m sure they will hope it’s third time lucky in their quest for promotion. Currently sitting in 6th, the Wearsider’s will be looking to push on from there. Their most recent game was a 2-1 win at home to promotion rivals Ipswich Town. Charlie Wyke opened the scoring early on only for Jack Lenkester to equalise for the Tractor Boys, but the turning point of the game was the sending off of Andre Dozzell for a nasty looking challenge. Sunderland then went to win late on through Grant Leadbitter from the penalty spot.
The squad on paper is probably a Championship side, Lee Burge in goal may not be a household name but has been part of a solid foundation. Jordan Willis and Bailey Wright are brilliant defenders for this level and with options like Luke O’Nein and Denver Hume flanking them it will certainly be a test for the Dons defence. Aiden O’Brien and Leadbitter in the midfield are organised and experienced midfield enforcement that control the game. Lynden Gooch broke Stadium MK hearts with a blockbuster finish late on in our last meeting and Chris Maguire is an enigmatic talent who can create and score. Up top Danny Graham and Will Grigg (remember him) alongside Wyke should have enough goals between them to at least get into the play offs if not automatic promotion.
Charlie Wyke struggled to settle in at Sunderland when he first signed from Bradford City. Injuries, in and out of the team and general loss of form made Sunderland fans question the decision to sign him. This season though Phil Parkinson has stuck with him and it appears that he is getting back to his best. Four goals in ten doesn’t sound prolific in the grand scheme of things but it’s a marked improvement. The Middlesbrough born striker is a great hold up striker with the rare quality of pace for a 6’+ striker who when on form is lethal. Adaptable in a one or two up top, Richard Keogh is likely going to have his hands full on Saturday afternoon.
Predicted Line Up
Williams – O’Hora – Keogh – Lewington – Sorinola
Houghton – Thompson – Fraser
Jerome – Morris
With Poole and Harvie on International duty the backup of Sorinola and Williams are likely to fill in. The experience of Houghton and Thompson will be vital at both ends of the pitch. I’d also like a more settled front two in the league which might help on the goal front.
I predict a 1-1 draw. When we play the big boys, our performances step up. It’s symptomatic of a Russell Martin side. It will be a tight affair, but I feel Sunderland are there for the taking and if we play to our best anything is possible.
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