Sunderland made their way through to the fifth round of the League Cup on Tuesday night as they beat QPR on penalties away from home.
The Black Cats fought hard to secure a 0-0 draw in normal time, with the Rs having a goal wrongly disallowed for offside and attempting four more shots than the visitors.
Astonishingly, two QPR players completely missed the target from the spot, with Lee Burge saving Charlie Austin’s penalty to allow Sunderland to win the shootout 3-1. Aiden McGeady, Alex Pritchard and Ross Stewart converted their spot-kicks.
Whilst Burge saved a penalty and intimidated the other two enough to miss, it was another player stole the show for Lee Johnson’s side on the night – Carl Winchester.
The versatile Northern Ireland international lined up at right-back and put in an impressive display, full of endeavour and hard work. He was constantly bombing up and down the pitch to provide an outlet for the Black Cats down the right and played an important part in the victory.
Earlier this season, Sunderland journalist James Copley hailed him as a cult hero for the club, saying: “Carl Winchester – fast becoming a cult hero, he got the winner, he’s made that right-back spot his own.”
On the ball, he was heavily involved. – as per SofaScore, he had 75 touches and completed 75% of his passes from the right-back position. He also had two efforts on goal and alleviated pressure from his side by winning an impressive four free-kicks throughout the match.
The defender was not without his faults, though. Winchester only completed two of his seven attempted crosses and long passes and was unsuccessful with his one dribble attempt. However, this gives him something to work on ahead of his next appearance to continue his development as a player.
Defensively, he was very impressive.
Again, as per SofaScore, he won nine duels in the game, including seven of his 13 ground battles.
The 28-year-old was also able to get through the 90 minutes without committing a single foul, showing the excellent timing of his challenges.
Therefore, he stole the show for Johnson as he put in an energetic, impressive, performance at right-back as Sunderland booked their place in the next round of the cup.
Burge saved a penalty, but Winchester put in 110% throughout the game and his individual drive typified the spirited display by the club. Hopefully, he will be able to maintain a high level throughout the campaign and become an important member of the starting XI.