Sunderland travelled to Nottingham just days after a 3-0 hammering to Chris Wilder’s Blades on Boxing Day. Chris Coleman made several changes to the side including a return for Callum McManaman and a start for Josh Maja. Donald Love also returned to the starting 11, replacing left wing back Bryan Oviedo. Ty Browning started despite his foot being one and a half times its normal size.
Pubs near the City Ground were few and far between for travelling supporters. A 15 minute walk to Nottingham city centre was about the closest away friendly pub. American bar Hooters was popular with away fans, probably due to the waitresses! It was rather packed and a table reservation was required for food; despite this there were plenty of TVs to watch the Old Firm in the early kick off.
Other pubs in the city centre included the Blue Boar near central area as well as a Winter Wonderland which served mulled wine and warmed cider plus other more common drinks, as well as an ice rink, and international foods such as German cuisine and Spanish churros. Other places recommended were a WMC near Notts County’s Meadow Lane stadium, across the river, although I wasn’t sure if this was open.
The stadium is right on the banks of the River Trent and the away fans are at the opposite end to the river, in the Bridgeford Stand. Inside the stadium a selection of pies were available as well as sausage rolls and Cornish pasties, however there were a limited choice of soft drinks and a small selection of beers and lagers too. Although the concourse was a bit on the narrow side it created a good atmosphere downstairs.
To put it bluntly, it was a scrappy win. Sunderland didn’t seem to show up but Forest appeared scared and unwilling to attack, although Warburton’s men did grow into the game a bit. Former Sunderland striker Daryl Murphy missed some golden opportunities in the opening periods to put Forest in front. Murphy tested Ruiter who made a great save coming off his line, it was one of the only times that the big man would really be challenged.
Despite his inexperience, Love coped well down the left hand side, especially when Ben Osborn doubled up on his with ex Rangers winger Barrie McKay. Even with his injury, Browning gave a good account of himself, as did the much improved Darron Gibson.
Sunderland’s first shot on target went in, Adam Matthews put the ball into the area from the byline after some good work and link up play by Maja. Aiden McGeady got his head on the end of the Welshman’s cross and it flew past goalkeeper Jordan Smith.
It wasn’t the fact that we were miles better, we were far from that, but we did want it more. Coleman said in his Sheffield United post match comments that the players need to show more fight and that’s exactly what we saw. Goalkeeper Ruiter had very little to do all game but did seem good on the ball, however his distribution does still let the big Dutchman down.
Second half failed to entertain, the last few minutes brought some drama as full back Eric Lichaj clattered the woodwork of Ruiter’s goal, the keeper was completely beaten but the post protected the Wearsiders’ lead. Sunderland sat far too deep in the closing stages and only substitute James Vaughan could even be considered forward, the ex Bury hit man then rattled the post at the other end with a long shot but the referee had already blown his whistle.
Post match thoughts
Apart from McGeady scoring the former Everton winger did very little and appeared to be lazy and disinterested. But credit where credit is due and he came up with the goods when we needed him to, and you wouldn't have put money on him to score a header! There was a little bit of magic from him in the second half when he spun two defenders before laying it off to his fellow countryman Gibson. Gibson ran the midfield and played some great long range passes, he wasn’t the only one though, and midfield partner George Honeyman was spraying the ball wide to the full backs too. The switch seemed to always be on and we had some joy in playing the cross field game.
My man of the match would have to be Honeyman; it seemed hard to look past him. The academy product ran the whole game and tracked back very well, as well as his ability to run at players and drift wide when needed to. Although Honeyman takes the man of the match award for me, Adam Matthews also had a cracker; he had a fantastic game running the left wing back role. The Wales international ran up and down the left flank tirelessly and provided the cross for McGeady’s winner.
Sunderland go into the game on New Year’s day as firm favourites against Paul Heckingbottom’s Barnsley at the Stadium of Light, on the back of a good victory on the road. In the process of writing this, it came to light that this defeat had cost Mark Warburton his job as Forest boss, the defeat on Boxing Day at home to managerless Sheffield Wednesday and then the home loss to us proved to be the final straw.
Thanks for reading and keep your eyes peeled for an interview with club historian Rob Mason. Share your thoughts with me on Twitter @ethan_thoburn or have your say on Twitter @WeAreWearisde you can also see when I caught up with Alex Rae about his time at Sunderland.
All the best for the New Year and lets hope we can start the way we finished 2017.