As far as Sunderland are concerned, this season has been all about Charlie Wyke.
The tall striker hasn’t had the easiest of stays at the Stadium of Light but he’s finally beginning to demonstrate why they brought him to the north East.
Before this term, Wyke had netted just nine times in League One for the Black Cats over two years, so his turnaround in 2020/21 has to be commended.
After scoring a brilliant hat-trick in Sunderland’s 3-0 win over Wimbledon on Saturday, he took his league tally for the current campaign to ten goals in 18 outings. This has been nothing short of an excellent few months for the forward.
Yet, despite his superb finishing this weekend, there was another man who deserved some very special praise – Jordan Willis.
The centre half hadn’t started a league game since the middle of November, and on his return, he was outstanding, laying a wonderful platform from which Sunderland were able to build on.
The 26-year-old kept a clean sheet and looked resolute throughout the entire encounter, earning the following review from Sunderland Echo reporter Phil Smith: “A commanding performance at the back, underlining how much he has been missed and how much better the balance of the defence is with him in. In a low-quality contest, he was by some distance the best performer aside from Wyke’s finishing.”
It’s easy to see why he stood out, too. Willis managed to win a colossal seven aerial duels throughout the contest, the second-highest of anyone on the pitch and he also managed three clearances – the second-highest number in the Sunderland side.
The defender’s display was so imperious that Wimbledon striker Joe Pigott was virtually anonymous. He completed just 40% of his passes and lost 11 of the aerial duels he competed. On top of that, the forward failed to win any of the eight ground duels he contested.
Willis ensured it was a rough and frustrating afternoon for Wimbledon’s attack, reigning supreme in all facets of play, even completing a dribble by bringing the ball out from the back.
The Mackems stalwart has only started eight league outings this season and this performance showed how much of a miss he’s been.
Wyke will rightfully steal the headlines, but Willis was undoubtedly another of Lee Johnson’s heroes. This was an imposing display, more of which will only benefit Sunderland’s promotion hopes.