A standout moment and an injury worry: How Wolves loanee Dion Sanderson fared on his Sunderland debut

It was the kind of collision that saw everyone in attendance wince a little bit.
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Not because it was a dirty tackle, but purely for it’s committed nature.

As Sunderland looked to start the second half on the front foot, Dion Sanderson stepped-in to attempt to break-up a rare Rochdale attack.

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His tackle was powerful, but fair, and saw him win the ball from Jake Beesley – with some force.

How Wolves loanee Dion Sanderson fared on his Sunderland debutHow Wolves loanee Dion Sanderson fared on his Sunderland debut
How Wolves loanee Dion Sanderson fared on his Sunderland debut

After the initial concern for Sanderson following the crunching tackle, there was a bellowed ‘well done, Dion’ from the Sunderland bench.

It was a standout moment in what was an impressive debut from the Black Cats’ deadline day signing, and the kind of committed tackle that few youngsters would put in.

But Sanderson is far from your traditional Premier League loanee. He comes with experience of the Championship with Cardiff City and has trained regularly with Wolves’ first-team, learning from his more experienced counterparts.

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And it was clear from his debut why Sanderson is well-regarded by Nuno Espirito Santo.

He was calm on the ball, happy to play out from the back and drive into space when the opportunity presented itself. His youthful pace was a useful asset and his distribution, on the whole, was positive.

Indeed, there was one late cross from the right which could have yielded more than it did

We also saw Sanderson tested from a defensive standpoint, particularly during the early stages as Rochdale sent a lot of their play down the Sunderland right.

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An aerial barrage saw the 20-year-old having to remain alert, with Rochdale’s Beesley lurking on his shoulder in case of an error. He had little joy, with Sanderson imperious in the air and quick on the ground to negate any loose second balls.

Only once did Rochdale get in behind on the right, and it was perhaps testament to Sanderson and right wing-back Conor McLaughlin’s display that the hosts quickly turned their attention to the opposite flank.

We heard from the Wolves loanee upon joining the club that he wasn’t afraid to put in a challenge, and he was certainly willing to embrace the physical side of the game at Spotland – although he did pick up a booking for a challenge on Ollie Rathbone in the second half.

But that took little shine off what was a very promising debut.

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The only other concern was a knock picked up by Sanderson in the second half, with the defender receiving treatment after going down clutching his left knee.

Given Sunderland’s current defensive injury woes, fans will have been fearing the worst – but any concerns were brushed aside post-match. Sanderson played down the knock, saying he simply did what any defender would and just ran it off.

It’s a good attitude to have, and one which will undoubtedly serve the youngster well during his career.

But in the shorter-term, his focus remains on Sunderland - and trying to establish himself as a regular starter.

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That will be no mean task, especially given that Jordan Willis and Luke O’Nien could step back into the side at Gillingham.

If Sanderson can replicate similar performances to the one he showed at Spotland, though, he will certainly find himself in receipt of more starts as the season progresses.

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