The excellent Carl Winchester display which provides an interesting Sunderland dilemma following Leeds United arrival
At the start of this week, one of the biggest priorities for Sunderland appeared to be shoring up the right side of their defence.
Following the arrival of left-back Dennis Cirkin earlier this month, the Black Cats are still short of a natural option on the opposite flank – yet you couldn’t tell during their 1-0 win over AFC Wimbledon.
Carl Winchester has provided admirable cover after moving from central midfield to full-back this season, yet he found another level against The Dons.
Sunderland boss Lee Johnson even missed the highlight of Winchester’s performance when the 28-year-old scored his second goal for the club – albeit via a deflection.
Yet Johnson was still quick to label Winchester’s performance ‘outstanding,’ crediting the player’s all-round display.
Despite what some may have thought before this match, Wimbledon were no pushovers. Mark Robinson’s side had scored six goals in their first three league games and were unbeaten this season following a strong end to the last campaign.
Against Sunderland, though, they managed just five efforts at goal as the Black Cats’ defence did a commendable job. On his first league appearance for the Wearsiders, goalkeeper Anthony Patterson was rarely tested.
As Johnson pointed out after the match, Wimbledon started in a 4-2-2-2 formation, with inside forwards Ayoub Assal and Luke McCormick supporting Ethan Chislett and towering frontman Ollie Palmer.
But despite the hosts’ greater share of possession in the first half, Sunderland’s defence was quick to prevent any dangerous attacks.
Winchester in particular was alert when the ball was directed into his channel, repeatedly making interceptions to thwart McCormack or overlapping full-back Cheye Alexander.
The Northern Irishman also demonstrated his composure on the ball to build attacks, like when he stepped out of defence and released Lynden Gooch on the right – before the latter’s shot was saved.
The goal after half-time was a just reward for Winchester’s assured performance, and it will be interesting to see what the rest of the season holds for him.
Some will argue he should be deployed in his more natural midfield position, especially now Sunderland have signed Niall Huggins from Leeds United
On this evidence, Winchester will be a key player for Sunderland this season – wherever he plays.