BY LAURENCE LOWNE
Plough Lane was bulging with a new record attendance of 8,381, which included 1,200 noisy Sunderland supporters who had come to meet their latest manager – Alex Neil.
With both teams entering the fray badly seeking points it seemed unlikely entertainment would be on the agenda, but this feisty game saw plenty to keep the supporters talking late into the night as the referee took centre stage for various reasons.
One red card, 14 yellow cards, penalty appeals galore, and at times what looked like calculated nullification of Wimbledon’s most enterprising player, Ayoub Assal. Those watching on would have seen him bounce back up and continue being a complete thorn in the Sunderland defence for all the right reasons. Regretfully he did pick up a yellow and now has a two-match ban pending, while Luke McCormick collected two yellows and a red with the resulting dismissal.
Here are Laurence Lowne’s takeaways from the match.
WIMBLEDON CROSSES HAVE A REAL TARGET
Loanee Sam Cosgrove has a fine sense of purpose and linked up well with THE aforementioned Assal and McCormick. He was unlucky not to score from a first-half corner swung in by Lee Brown as Sunderland’s keeper made a stunning save. He made runs to the near post which will prove immensely useful for incoming crosses. Think Alan Cork in his prime making similar runs.
TWO MORE PENALTIES COULD’VE BEEN AWARDED
McCormick had a game which delivered a goal from a penalty after Jack Rudoni’s cross was handled, and delivered incisive passing into dangerous areas as he tried to unlock a stubborn Sunderland defence. There was much to admire in his play, and his red card will be forgiven by most. There were two more penalty appeals waved away.
With Assal being fouled again and again in a very agricultural way, it opened play for others to shine and George Marsh, plus Paul Osew did exactly that. Many would say Osew put in a man of the match display with his fearless running, and he in turn was taken out by a lunging Sunderland player late in the first half, when another counter attack was on the way.
REF LOSES ALL SENSE OF PURPOSE
Referee Simon Mather gave a Jekyll & Hyde performance when compared to December 2021, when he never put a whistle wrong in an match at Accrington Stanley. Then in atrocious conditions both sides wanted to try and play football, whereas Sunderland, on an appalling run and promotion becoming a dream, were focused on stopping Wimbledon playing football, rather than win the match.
Coach Mark Robinson expressed dismay at Sunderland’s tactics, and will now have to find a new game plan for Saturday’s trip to Bolton Wanderers. But there were some very encouraging contributions from the experienced Brown at left-back plus Marsh, who really pulled the strings across the park.
Whilst a 1-1 draw may seem disappointing there were lots of positives.
PICTURES: LUCY DIXON