VENUE: National Hockey Stadium
RESULT: Wimbledon 1, Lads 2
TEAM: Poom, Breen, Bjorklund, McCartney, Arca, Piper (Thornton 84), Robinson, Williams, Thirlwell, Stewart (Byfield 72), Kyle
SUBS NOT USED:.Myhre, Babb, Smith
BACK IN BLACK: Scott Mathieson
ATTENDANCE: 4,800 (2,380 Sunderland)
“It was a good win but I’m glad it’s over. We should have won by a lot more but I’m happy. We could have won by a considerably bigger margin but we didn’t kill the game off. We had enough chances to do so.
“We’re still aiming to finish in the top two. We hope to keep winning and pick up points.
“All credit to Wimbledon – they made it hard for us – but ultimately the job has been done and we’ve got the three points.
“It’s nice when substitutions work – my subs are on the bench to improve things – not to warm their arses.”
The first chance fell to Sunderland. Piper’s low cross was met by Stewart and he shot over with his right foot when in fact he should have done better.
After a scrappy opening 10 minutes, Sunderland found a foothold in the game and Piper in particular caused the home side problems.
Sunderland should have been well ahead by half-time but the Dons were always a threat on the break.
The Dons struggled to cope with Kyle and it was his flick-on that sent Julio Arca clear in the 34th minute.
Wimbledon’s heads dropped after going behind as Sunderland showed few signs of any side-affects from their FA Cup disappointment.
McCarthy threw on Darren Byfield for Stewart and a minute later the striker scored with his first touch.
Kyle missed two sitters late in the game, proving that it was not his night in front of goal – although his performance was full of hard work.
Joachim Bjorklund was given his chance and the Swede, who seemed to be fading when he was dropped in February, didn’t put a foot wrong all night.
It was pretty much one-way traffic towards the Wimbledon goal for the next hour.
Piper shone for Sunderland in the opening 30 minutes in particular.
Kyle looked more like his old self in terms of physical presence, work-rate and lay-offs, but he had a dreadful night in front of goal.
On the half-hour, Wimbledon rallied, using the long-ball approach which used to be their trademark, but they managed only fitful pressure and Sunderland continued to press.
Sunderland continued to be positive after the break and Kyle, Piper and Stewart all went close before the hour mark was reached.
Sunderland initially showed few ill effects from their FA Cup semi-final disappointment against Millwall.
Byfield’s close-range finish, which followed a centre by George McCartney, gave the tiring visitors the points their over all control merited.
Wimbledon never looked capable of the win.
Sunderland’s body language increasingly spoke of their exertions at Old Trafford, and Wimbledon equalised midway through the second half.
The Black Cats bounced back from FA Cup heartbreak.
The Dons youngsters put on a brave performance against the Division One high-fliers.
Early on it was all Sunderland – Piper continued to cause problems for the Dons.
Sunderland continued to dominate and Kyle linked up brilliantly with Stewart before placing his shot the wrong side of the post.
Wayne Gray wasted a good chance for Wimbledon midway through the first period as the Sunderland defence were carved open.
Wimbledon declined to go down without putting up a truly brave fight against the losing FA Cup semi-finalists.
Sunderland were made to work hard for a victory that leaves them eight points behind the two automatic promotion places.
Mick McCarthy’s side were pegged back by Malvin Kamara’s equaliser after going in ahead thanks to Marcus Stewart.