OPPO: Nottingham Forest
VENUE: The City Ground, Nottingham
RESULT: Forest 2 – Lads 0
TEAM: Poom; Wright, Babb, Bjorklund, McCartney; Oster (Butler 63), McAteer, Thirlwell, Kilbane; Proctor (Stewart 60), Kyle.
SUBS NOT USED: Ingham, Clark, Williams
MAN IN BLACK: M Ryan (Lancashire)
ATTENDANCE: 23,529 (of which 2,612 = SAFC)
“Kyle and Proctor missed a few chances but they’ll keep getting chances. All I can do about it is win the next game. I’m more unhappy about losing three points and conceding the goals we conceded. I’m not losing sleep over the record. What if we get that record, but then we suddenly click and go on a 10-game unbeaten run?”
On Thornton and Whitley’s exclusion: “They asked for an alarm call and there was a power cut overnight, but that’s not an excuse for me.”
Marlon Harewood and David Johnson ran the Black Cats ragged.
Michael Proctor and Kevin Kyle were both guilty of losing their composure in front of goal and it cost McCarthy’s men.
It was the Black Cats who were offered the first good chance to go in front and it fell to Proctor.
Forest were forced into some last-gasp defending in an explosive start by the away side. Keeper Darren Ward did well to hold an overhead kick by Prcotor in the 10th minute.
Forest had their tails up after going ahead and Reid forced a good save from Poom from a free-kick moments after the home side went in front.
Sunderland huffed and puffed after the break in search of a lifeline but they struggled to break down Forest’s defence.
McCarthy threw on Marcus Stewart in the 60th minute and it injected a bit more life into Sunderland who pressed without causing Forest any alarm.
Forest always looked dangerous on the break.
By half-time, it was clear the same old problems from last season were on show as relegated Sunderland struggled.
Kevin Phillips and Michael Gray were sitting in the stands. How costly that will be remains to be seen – Sunderland struggled in the areas both players thrive in.
Proctor missed a glorious chance in the opening five minutes when he dispossessed veteran Des Walker midway in the Forest half, but seemed alarmed by his goalscoring position and consequently paused before crossing for Forest to clear.
Sunderland were made to pay for their woeful finishing when Forest took the lead. Andy Reid dissected the Sunderland defence with a delightful through ball for Harewood to round Mart Poom.
Proctor still put himself about and showed he has the instinct for being in the right place at the right time. If he could combine that with a goalscorer’s knack, then he could be the answer to McCarthy’s problems.
Johnson and Harewood caused Sunderland’s defence problems all afternoon with their lightning pace and eye for goals.
NoTW MoTM: Andy Reid.
You can see why Sunderland have not won a League match since last December or away from home for a year. When the chances came early on they were spurned.
The signs of trouble for Sunderland came as early as the opening minute. Fed by Eoin Jess, Reid skipped past Stephen Wright and crossed for David Johnson to head into Mart Poom’s hands.
One moment of Thompson hesitation was all Proctor needed to dart past him and lob just too high over the stranded Ward.
Poom punched away a Reid free-kick but still Sunderland might have levelled if Proctor had been sharper.
The added pain for Sunderland’s large and vociferous following was that both goals had come at their end.
Forest repelled all Sunderland’s second-half efforts, if not always comfortably or impressively.
The visitors’ best second-half effort, an over-robust aerial challenge by the massive Kyle, produced merely pain for Ward, who was flattened by the attempt on his goal.
Sunderland are just two losses away from equalling the worst sequence of consecutive League defeats, which stands at 18 and was set by Darwen in 1898-99.
Without Thornton’s guile, Sunderland’s attacking options were limited.
After seeing Sunderland create and miss a number of early opportunities, Forest seized control of the game with two first-half goals and never looked like squandering their lead.
Proctor might have hit the target five times in the first half alone, but for all his hard work outside the penalty area he was let down by his atrocious finishing.
To Sunderland’s credit, they continued to try to find holes in the Forest defence. But after berating Thomas Butler for failing to provide a good cross when he was unmarked, Kyle headed a glorious chance straight at the goalkeeper Darren Ward.
Sunderland are already starring in their very own horror movie. Unfortunately for Mick McCarthy, their manager, it is a strictly non-fiction production, which threatens to turn into one of the most gruesome reality shows around.
Claudio Reyna, the United States captain, remains very much part of McCarthy’s plans but had not recovered from a cruciate ligament injury in time to feature.
Sunderland were allowed to conjure a series of decent early chances.
McCarthy’s backline appeared persistently vulnerable to the attacking pace of David Johnson and Marlon Harewood.
Forest remained a far smoother proposition than the visitors who too often resorted to aiming overly optimistic long diagonal balls in the direction of the hulking Kyle who, although almost as tall, is no Niall Quinn.
Forest continued to monopolise possession and Sunderland lacking both counter invention and incision.
Sunderland began confidently – at one point Michael Procter had three chances in a minute – but their defeat represents a worrying start to life in Division One for manager Mick McCarthy.
Playing without Phillips, McCann, Sorensen, Craddock and Bellion, the visitors played with a freedom unseen in the Premiership last season.
Proctor failed to take his chances.
For Forest, beating another of the promotion favourites in front of the Sky Sports cameras provided a statement of their intentions.
McCarthy’s reaction to relegation was a new-look side; a change of fortunes also appeared likely in the first 18 minutes.
With new captain Jason McAteer energetic and impressive against a Forest midfield where three players made debuts, opportunities came and went.
Worrying for Mick McCarthy was Forest’s second, Louis-Jean finding the space at the near post to head home a corner from Reid, a constant menace to Stephen Wright.
After just six minutes, Kyle shot against Darren Ward’s post; twice afterwards, he picked out the Forest keeper rather than the back of the net.
Proctor then side-footed tamely wide within minutes of Harewood’s opener whereas.