Lee Johnson's exchange with Charlie Wyke and comical fan chants: Moments you might have missed at Wigan Athletic
Sunderland progressed to the last 16 of the Carabao Cup after a comfortable 2-0 win at Wigan – yet there were a few moments the cameras may not have picked up.
Goals from Nathan Broadhead and Luke O’Nien saw the Black Cats progress at the DW Stadium, after both sides made wholesale changes.
From tactical moves to conversations off the pitch – here are some of the moments you might have missed.
Wyke and Power catch up with former teammates
Former Sunderland duo Charlie Wyke and Max Power weren’t included in the Wigan squad as Latics boss Leam Richardson made nine changes to the side which won 4-1 at Accrington Stanley last time out.
Yet the aforementioned players were quick to catch up with their ex-colleagues before the match, when they chatted with a group of Sunderland players, including Luke O’Nien, Ross Stewart, Elliott Embleton, Dan Neil and Aiden O’Brien, on the pitch.
Wyke and Power were clearly popular figures in the Black Cats’ dressing room last season and left Wearside in high regard.
After the game, the pair returned to the side of the pitch to chat with some of the Sunderland staff, including head coach Lee Johnson.
Wyke and Johnson could be seen laughing with one another before the Black Cats boss conducted his post-match media duties. No hard feelings, then.
Another former Sunderland player Jordan Jones did start for Wigan on the left flank but had a quiet evening.
The 26-year-old has started three League One games for the Latics since his arrival from Rangers this summer, but was named on the bench for their last two league fixtures.
Fan chants signal promotion rivalry
Both these sides will be aiming for promotion this season and sit joint top of the League One table after seven matches.
Wigan’s convincing win at Accrington Stanley means they have a superior goal difference at this stage, and Richardson’s side have picked up 16 points out of a possible 18 since losing at Sunderland on the opening day.
After falling behind in the first half, Wigan fans were keen to remind Sunderland their side sit top of the table, even by the slenderest of margins.
The Black Cats were backed by another strong away following at the DW Stadium as 1,674 Wearsiders made up the official attendance of 6,511.
Sunderland supporters certainly enjoyed their evening and initiated several chants, including ‘top of the league, you’re having a laugh.’
It could be the start of a promotion rivalry this season. The sides will meet again at the DW Stadium on February 26 when we begin to reach the business end of the campaign.
Players take their opportunities
Sunderland’s side showed nine changes from the one which started at Fleetwood on Saturday.
But despite the alterations, the Black Cats’ starting XI still looked strong on paper and showed the squad’s strength in depth.
Several of the club’s new signings, including Niall Huggins, Frederik Alves, Corry Evans, Alex Pritchard and Broadhead received a chance to impress, while Leon Dajaku made his debut.
Aiden O’Brien and goalkeeper Lee Burge also came into the side, while Dennis Cirkin, Bailey Wright and O’Nien kept their places.
When everyone is fit, Johnson could easily name two strong sides which would be very competitive at League One level.
Against Wigan, Pritchard, who has been building up his match fitness since joining the club from Huddersfield, pulled the strings in the No 10 position, while Broadhead took his goal excellently and made several probing runs behind the Wigan defence.
Huggins was excellent at right-back before he was forced off with an injury, which is hopefully not too serious, while Alves was solid at the back – although Wigan didn’t create too many opportunities.
There is certainly competition for places, which bodes well for the season ahead.
Full-backs full of energy
Johnson gave a glowing assessment when discussing his two full-backs after the win, describing them as ‘duracell bunnies.’
Huggins and Cirkin, who joined the club permanently from Leeds and Tottenham respectively this summer, were regular outlets on the flanks and comfortable carrying the ball out of defence, making runs down the line and infield.
Cirkin, who has improved week after week at left-back, almost got on the scoresheet moments after Broadhead’s opener when he ran through the centre of the pitch before testing goalkeeper Ben Amos with an effort from the edge of the Wigan box.
Huggins also showed his ability on the ball with regular forays forward down the right, like when he linked up with Pritchard and Broadhead before delivering a low cross for O’Nien to convert.
There was even a moment when Huggins’ cross from the right almost picked out Cirkin for a goalscoring chance on the opposite side of the box but the cross was intercepted.
With Carl Winchester and Denver Hume also set to provide competition at full-back this season, it’s an area where Sunderland look strong.
Dajaku’s foul throw-in
It was a mixed night for the Sunderland debutant who looked bright with the ball at his feet in the early exchanges.
Dajaku started on the right but regularly switched flanks with O’Brien throughout the match.
The German winger certainly offers something different with his ability to make direct runs in possession, yet he should probably avoid throw-in duties for the foreseeable future.
There was one moment in the first half when Dajaku rushed to take a quick throw-in but the ball fell out of his hands. Maybe a job for one of the full-backs next time.