Lee Johnson’s Sunderland continued their strong start to the season with a 1-0 win against AFC Wimbledon at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
Whilst the headlines belong to Winchester after his match-winning strike, another player put in a stunning performance that may have gone under the radar. Tom Flanagan produced an excellent display at centre-back to help keep a clean sheet and help to secure the three points on the day.
The goalscorer deserves acclaim for his performance, but fans should not forget Flanagan and his contribution to the result.
Per SofaScore, Winchester (7.4) was the only outfield player with a higher rating than the central defender (7.2) against the Dons. Sunderland’s number three was pivotal to the win with his almost flawless defensive work to keep Wimbledon at bay throughout the game.
The 29-year-old won an impressive 80% of his defensive duels. He came on top in 12 of his 15 battles, winning three on the ground and nine in the air, proving that he had the beating of his opponents for the majority of the game.
Flanagan also completed two tackles and was not dribbled past a single time in the 90 minutes.
As much as scoring goals win games, conceding them loses points so Flanagan’s defending was arguably as important as Winchester’s goal, as that strike could have been for nothing if Sunderland conceded a sloppy goal or two.
“Has had a very decent start to the season. Brings some important experience to the side and keeps it simple in possession when needed. Really composed.”
This further highlights the point that Flanagan made a huge impact against Wimbledon, with Smith explaining that his experience and composure helped Sunderland both in and out of possession.
With 71% of his passes completed and 67 touches of the ball, he was able to play out from the back well alongside the inexperienced Callum Doyle and was a massive reason why The Black Cats were able to take all three points.