safc.com’s Sam Lightle runs the rule over the action at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland were dealt a cruel blow at home to Nottingham Forest this evening.
Chances were aplenty for the Black Cats throughout, with Lewis Grabban and Callum McManaman inspiring Simon Grayson’s side in the opening period.
McManaman was then denied by Jordan Smith early in the second period as Sunderland continued to chase the goal their efforts deserved before Jonny Williams flashed a thunderous strike an inch wide.
But former Black Cats striker Daryl Murphy came back to Wearside to haunt his old club, latching onto an error and cruelling punishing the lads with five minutes to play.
Sunderland approached tonight’s game with their sights firmly set on three points. In order to go about securing those points, Grayson was boosted by the return of Lee Cattermole, who came back into the side after missing Saturday’s game against Sheffield United. But that wasn’t the only change to his team as McManaman was handed his first start, with Adam Matthews and Bryan Oviedo also named in the starting XI. That meant James Vaughan and Jack Rodwell drop to the bench while Aiden McGeady, John O’Shea and Lamine Kone missed out.
FROM THE OFF
Didier Ndong lead the charge for the lads as Sunderland looked to get on the front foot from the off. His high pressing saw the Black Cats win possession right by the corner flag, McManaman then waltzed his way into the box keeping the ball on a piece of string, but his pull-back was cleared away unchallenged. Sunderland continued to stride forward as the rain swept across the Stadium of Light turf, with Grabban whistling a strike from 20 yards a fraction to the right of Jordan Smith’s goal after Armand Traore got the ball caught under his feet. And the chances continue to rain in as the Black Cats looked to sink their teeth, Jonny Williams latched onto a ball down the left and he patiently waited for the run of McManaman to join him. McManaman arrived on cue but the 26-year-old’s goal-bound effort was blocked by a last-ditch challenge.
Anticipation continued to rise in the Sunderland camp as chance after chance went amiss and the scoreline remained deadlock. But the lads stuck at it and they thought they had found a way through shortly after the half-hour mark when Oviedo slipped a beautifully threaded ball into Grabban, who had sneaked in behind. Fans around the ground rose in expectation only for those hopes to be shattered when the referee blew his whistle and eyes saw that the linesman had risen his flag for offside. Undeterred by that, McManaman, who oozed quality throughout the opening period, picked out Grabban from the right. Grabban swiped at the ball but failed to make contact and then the ball fell Honeyman who saw his attempt charged down by last-ditch Forest defending. Sunderland continued to impress as the half-time whistled neared but were dealt a blow when Grabban was forced off injured – James Vaughan came on in his place with 36 minutes played.
HEAD OF STEAM
Sunderland began the second 45 as they started the first. On the front foot, in Forest’s faces and at a 100mph. Spearheaded by Welsh international Williams, the Black Cats continued to tinker away in the middle of the park before McManaman somehow stole a yard inside the box and was denied by the strong left hand of Smith as he stabbed the ball towards goal. Matthews then got Sunderland’s fans off their seats as he bulldozed his way down the right, with George Honeyman winning a corner as he took aim from range. Next to take a strike at Smith’s goal was Oviedo as Sunderland tried their luck down the left flank this time. The Costa Rican international broke at speed and then left fly from the edge of the box only for his effort to rattle into the sidenetting.
A TWIST IN THE TALE?
Nottingham Forest has been largely quite in attacking areas all evening, rarely troubling Dutchman Robbin Ruiter in the Sunderland goal. But as time ticked by and the scores remained level, Mark Warburton’s side sensed their might be more than a point on offer as Barrie McKay entered the fray on the left. His pace and directness asked a few questions of Matthews down the right but the Welshman answered them as Sunderland steadied the ship. And it was Matthew’s fellow countryman, Williams, who went an inch away from handing Sunderland a deserved three points with 82 minutes played. The ball fell kindly to Williams on the edge of the box and his sweetly struck effort whistled an inch wide. But just as Sunderland looked to be turning the screw once again, Murphy came back to haunt his old club as he latched onto an error from Ty Browning and calmly slotted home. A cruel blow. A cruel defeat.
Sunderland: Ruiter, Oviedo, Cattermole (Jones, 90+1), Williams, Grabban (Vaughan, 36), McManaman (Gooch, 70), Ndong, Browning, Matthews, Honeyman, Wilson
Subs: Steele, Rodwell, Love, Gibson
Nottingham Forest: Smith, Mills, Traore, Bridcutt, Murphy, Osborn, Brereton (Cummings, 78), Dowell (Clough, 68), Darikwa, Bouchalakis (McKay, 62), Worral
Subs: Henderson, Lichaj, Fox, Carayol
Attendance: 26, 026
Referee: Mr. S Hooper