Aiden McGeady’s inch-perfect header late in the first half was enough to seal the victory for Chris Coleman’s side, who in truth weren’t terribly troubled until right at the death when the home side managed an effort which struck the outside of Robbin Ruiter’s post.
The win moves Sunderland out of the drop zone and into 21st, although results elsewhere went against us and it’s still incredibly tight at the bottom.
Nottingham Forest: Jordan Smith, Eric Lichaj, Michael Mancienne (c), Daryl Murphy, Barrie McKay, Ben Osborn, Ben Brereton, Kieran Dowell, David Vaughan, Andreas Bouchalakis, Joe Worrall
Subs: Stephen Henderson, Armand Traore, Matty Cash, Zach Clough, Mustapha Carayol, Tyler Walker, Jason Cummings
Sunderland: Robbin Ruiter, Tyias Browning, John O’Shea (c), Marc Wilson, Donald Love, Adam Matthews, Darron Gibson, George Honeyman, Aiden McGeady, Josh Maja, Callum McManaman
Subs: Jason Steele, Joel Asoro, James Vaughan, Billy Jones, Bryan Oviedo, Lynden Gooch, Elliot Embleton
Chris Coleman made three changes to the side which slumped to a disheartening three-nil loss at Bramall Lane on Boxing Day. Donald Love regained his place in the side at the expense of a rusty Bryan Oviedo, while Josh Maja was handed his first start to the season and Callum McManaman made his first return to the starting eleven following his suspension.
Forest also fared poorly this week in the Steel City, having been beaten by the same scoreline away to Sheffield Wednesday. This was the home side’s fourth loss in the last six and adds to their current run of bad form - which fares marginally worse than ours.
Sunderland started the brighter of the two sides, and looked more offensively oriented for the opening ten.
A through ball from Darron Gibson could’ve provided the lads with an early lead as the searching pass fell at the feet of Josh Maja, but he was fumbled off the ball by the Forest defence.
Young Maja was amongst it again as he raced down the wing and subsequently was fouled to earn his side a free-kick, but unfortunately nothing came of it.
Sunderland endured an early scare as Marc Wilson failed to bring down a long ball, and Daryl Murphy seized the opportunity to charge through at goal. Robbin Ruiter was able to spare Wilson’s blushes though, as he got his body in the way to halt the attacking efforts of the former Black Cat.
From then on, the home side grew into the game more with Murphy spearheading the Forest offensive. The Irishman had a plethora of half-chances in the form of shots from outside the box and diving headers, but ultimately Ruiter wasn’t troubled.
But the same couldn’t be said down at the other end. As the first half neared it’s conclusion, Aiden McGeady - who had spent most of the game hitherto floating crosses in himself - was on the receiving end for once. He rose to meet an Adam Matthews cross before launching a bullet header beyond the reaches of ‘keeper Jordan Smith and into the back of the net - the lads had the lead!
The first half would end with Sunderland in front, with the home side unable to muster up anything more than a couple more half chances in response.
HT: Nottingham Forest 0 - 1 Sunderland (McGeady 40’)
Forest started the second half with the most attacking intent as they looked to level the scoreline.
A misplaced back-header from Tyias Browning was pursued by the pressing Murphy, but John O’Shea was able to emerge from the mix-up with the ball at his feet. Shortly after, Matthews committed a foul on the edge of the box, but the resulting free-kick from Kieran Dowell was gathered comfortably by Ruiter.
The home side seemed to be calling all the shots going forward, but Sunderland kept their shape and warded off any danger.
The lads arguably had a chance to double their advantage when McGeady raced down the flank, but the Irishman misplaced a pass to an unmarked Callum McManaman in the box. The latter winger was replaced by Lynden Gooch not too long after, and the young US international won Sunderland’s first corner of the game - but McGeady’s delivery was swung straight into the reach of the Forest ‘keeper.
Sunderland were hardly threatened for the remainder of the game, as they maintained their formidable defensive shape while Forest gradually ran out of ideas.
There was very nearly late drama, however, as the home side struck the bottom of Ruiter’s right post with virtually the last kick of the game - ultimately, though, we’d see out not only another victory, but another clean sheet in the Coleman era.
FT: Nottingham Forest 0 - 1 Sunderland (McGeady 40’)
Robbin Ruiter - 7/10: Dealt with everything that came his way, no complaints here.
Tyias Browning - 7/10: Solid and composed throughout - a good performance from him.
John O’Shea - 7/10: Kept everything in order, arguably contributed the most to the solid defensive shape we were able to maintain.
Marc Wilson - 6/10: Had a shaky moment in the first half as he almost let Daryl Murphy through on goal, but was decent otherwise.
Donald Love - 6/10: A competent showing, if not spectacular.
Adam Matthews - 7/10: Looked lively going forward and assured when defending - he really nailed the wing-back role today.
Darron Gibson - 8/10: Distribution was excellent from start to finish.
George Honeyman - 8/10: Tremendous. Covered every blade of grass and got stuck in wherever he could.
Aiden McGeady - 8/10: We’ve certainly missed these McGeady performances recently! Always looked a threat going forward and his skill is a joy to watch. Took his goal well too.
Josh Maja - 6/10: Got himself about but didn’t really have much to show for his efforts.
Callum McManaman - 5/10: Never really got going, to be honest.
(SUB) James Vaughan - 6/10: Fairly ineffectual, but gets a bonus point for doing two Forest players with a Cruyff turn.
(SUB) Lynden Gooch - 7/10: Kept our midfield engine ticking over with a good bit of graft.
(SUB) Bryan Oviedo - 7/10: Same as above, just swap ‘midfield’ with ‘defensive’.
Man of the Match: George Honeyman.