Nottingham Forest U21 1-0 SAFC U21
Sunderland Under-21s fell just short on Monday night in Premier League 2 action, as Nottingham Forest emerged victorious by a single goal.
Ateef Konate came off the bench to score the decisive strike in a physical encounter.
A more youthful side took to the pitch at Alfreton Town’s Impact Arena, with a back three deployed of Zak Johnson, Cameron Jessup and a full U21 debut for Ben Crompton.
Goalkeeper Adam Richardson captained the side on the night, with Connor Pye in a more attacking role supporting Max Thompson.
Forest saw the majority of possession in the first half but chances remained at a premium in the opening stages as the Lads stood firm in the challenge – the back three of Johnson, Jessup and Crompton all making crucial tackles.
Elsewhere, Dale Taylor struck an effort wide, before hitting the upright four minutes before the break with a low shot, a let-off for Sunderland.
Owen Robinson arrowed a speculative long-range effort just over the top in what was the Lads’ best sniff of goal of the first half.
The second half saw the game open up – and the introduction of Konate, who wasted no time in opening the scoring.
A common foul on the edge of the Lads’ final third saw the Frenchman line up a free-kick right of centre on his right foot, curling it in at the near post to give Forest the advantage.
The opener put a spring in the step of the home side, as Ollie Hammond struck the bar from 12 yards and Konate side-footed just past the post.
Richardson was forced into a smart save with his legs as Konate squared for Hammond, but not before Robinson had worked George Shelvey into a similar stop as he met Ethan Kachosa’s ball across the six-yard box.
Taylor also headed wide, as Forest looked to kill the game despite a resurgence in the Lads’ efforts to come forward in search of an equaliser.
The last eight minutes saw in-form U18 striker Tommy Watson enter the fray alongside Harry Gardiner, who made his return after a long injury lay-off.
The Black Cats fought until the bitter end, Watson working a deflected strike from 20 yards from which the resulting corner was cleared, but Forest managed to see out their narrow victory and three points.
Next up for the U21s to seek a response is back at Eppleton next Monday against Leeds United.
SAFC U21: Richardson ©; Johnson, Jessup, Crompton (Wilson 88’); Kachosa, Chiabi (Watson 82’), Burke, Robinson, Newall; Pye (Gardiner 82’), Thompson.
Subs not used: Bond, Bainbridge.