Russell Martin’s men were cup-tied in knots by a far superior squad as The Black Cats did more than just claw their way into the semi-finals of the Papa John’s Trophy. The scoreline did not reflect the general play but the visitors were comfortably clinical.
A combination of injuries, departures and new signings being ineligible to play in this competition meant that MK Dons were very light in terms of natural defenders. Still determined to keep to his system, despite the personnel, Martin played Louis Thompson in the centre of the Dons back three, with Dean Lewington and Warren O’Hora either side of him.
In rather unfortunate fashion, The Dons found themselves behind early on. A sharp Sunderland counter ended with Jack Diamond’s low cross from the right cannoning off the MK Dons captain and wrong-footing Lee Nicholls at the near post.
The hosts did spring into life, somewhat, in the 19th minute. Of course, Scott Fraser was the inspiration. His mazy run and shot deflected to Joe Mason, whose snapshot was easily saved by Remi Matthews.
The trailing side came so close to levelling the scores on 40 minutes, with the livewire: Mason, finding Lewis Johnson. The youngster set up Fraser for, what should have been, a tap-in but incredible defending from Lee Johnson’s men kept the men in white out.
Half-time: MK Dons 0-1 Sunderland
The home side started the second period very brightly , with Mason having a half-chance saved by Matthews before Sorinola almost curled in a second goal in two games from that inside-left position. His effort deflected just wide of the far corner rather than inside the post like his effort at Plough Lane.
In the 66th minute, Martin’s men produced their best football of the second half and it all came from the talisman: Fraser. From looking like he was going to lose possession in the centre-circle, his sharp footwork got him out of trouble before he found Mason, who linked up with Cameron Jerome, fresh off the bench. The veteran laid it off for the onrushing Fraser to force a solid save from Matthews.
Sunderland, despite the Dons dominance, were able to bring the likes of Aiden McGeady on from the bench. It was he who made the result safe for the Black Cats. A poor headed clearance by Lasse Sørensen fell straight to the Irishman. However, his left-footed strike should have been dealt with better by Lee Nicholls: showing the form that saw him dropped in the league.
Johnson was also able to bring on Charlie Wyke. The Sunderland number nine’s flicked header converted Grant Leadbitter’s cross to create a feeling of pathetic fallacy on a cold, rainy night at Stadium MK.
The Dons have to dust themselves down ahead of their league showdown with the same opposition on Saturday. However, it will not be men against boys as a plethora of January signings will be available for selection once again.
Full-time: MK Dons 0-3 Sunderland
Man of the match: Callum McFadzean