Sunderland continued their 100% record in the 2021/22 campaign with a 2-1 win over MK Dons in League One on Saturday.
Lee Johnson’s side have been in fine form to start the season and have now won all three of their competitive games this month. The Black Cats beat Wigan 2-1 in their first league outing before progressing through to the second round of the League Cup by beating Port Vale by the same scoreline.
Sunderland Echo reporter Phil Smith highlighted Stewart, in particular, for praise after the game. He scored a goal and won a penalty, with Smith saying that he was excellent at leading the line.
“Another simply excellent display. Led the line so well on a tougher afternoon where possession didn’t always flow. Got his goal, won a penalty.”
However, we believe that another player stole the show for Sunderland against MK Dons – Tom Flanagan.
The central defender was a brick wall at the back and was crucial to the Black Cats eventually coming away with the three points. After Parrott made the score 2-1 there was a flurry of attacks from the home side to draw level in the game, but Flanagan – along with the help of his teammates – was able to halt them.
On Flanagan, Smith wrote:
“Some good interceptions and headers, and was powerful alongside Wright late on.”
Flanagan was not dribbled past on any occasion during the game and committed one foul. This suggests that the MK Dons forwards struggled to get by the 29-year-old defender, whether that be by forcing him to foul them or skipping by him to progress closer to Lee Burge’s goal.
Therefore, he was able to steal the show from the attackers as he allowed their goals to win Sunderland the game with his terrific defending.
Without his excellent interventions to prevent MK Dons from creating chances and scoring, Stewart and Embleton’s strikes would have been in vain.
Hopefully, he will be able to maintain his consistency and continue to deliver similar displays throughout the season. The Black Cats will need them if they are to finally earn that promotion back to the second-tier.