Phil Smith analysis: Sunderland found a way to lose against Forest

Simon Grayson insisted Sunderland were not in crisis before this fourth defeat and while these are still early days in a long season, it is impossible not to be alarmed at the way the Black Cats managed to lose this one.
Jonny Williams presses forward last night.Jonny Williams presses forward last night.
Jonny Williams presses forward last night.

Nottingham Forest did not win it.

The visitors would have been satisfied with a point, showing little attacking intent throughout and barely testing Robbin Ruiter in the Sunderland goal.

Their winner was gifted to them, a stray pass at a crucial moment sending the Black Cats back to square one.

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For the opening 70 minutes it had been tepid, but promising to a small degree.

Sunderland reapplied the basics that had so badly deserted them in the previous two defeats.

Attacking midfielders and wingers were tracking back and snuffing out counter attacks.

They defended crosses and high balls well, and most importantly of all showed a willingness to keep the ball and move it quicker.

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Jonny Williams and Callum McManaman embodied a side that looked better balanced and more threatening.

Still, the cutting edge was lacking and the last 20 minutes underlined why there is such angst in the fan base.

With Aiden McGeady still missing and Lewis Grabban replaced in the first half due to injury, the Black Cats offered nothing.

If the sparse Stadium of Light said much about what has gone before, there was at least an atmosphere of sorts, a response to an improved performance and some gentle promise, led by the excellent Williams, his first touch and low centre of gravity causing problems for Forest and excitement for the fans.

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The last 20 minutes, however, were painfully flat and that reflected a Black Cats side that had seemingly run of invention and ideas.

Grayson was left with little to change, his bench again looking one-dimensional and certainly not the sort that could change the momentum and direction of a game.

It is of great concern that injuries to a striker and a winger can leave the squad so short.

Sunderland will be punished for their failure to land a third striker, particularly if Lewis Grabban’s injury proves to be a serious one.

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As the game dwindled towards a conclusion, it looked like it would be one point from games against Sheffueld United and Nottingham Forest.

A dismal return but at least here an application of the basics to build from.

To lose the game was both baffling and at the same time painfully predictable. Former Black Cat Daryl Murphy celebrated his goal and why not? From nowhere, his side were gifted three vital points.

This was still an improvement, even if consolation is hardly welcome at this point. Marc Wilson was excellent in defence, Bryan Oviedo a welcome addition at left-back, tightening a position that has caused the Black Cats all manner of problems earlier in the season.

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Already, however, the gap to the play-off positions is seven points and the inability to find the crucial moment of quality, particularly at home, offers no assurances that it will be reduced any time soon.

The Black Cats tried everything to end their home hoodoo. A change of formation, four changes to the starting line-up. They even broke 20 years of tradition by warming up in front of the South Stand.

On occasions it looked like it way pay dividends, but there were still no stretches of sustained pressure, no siege on the Forest goal.

Too many familiar problems, still to be overcome and with time slowly ticking away.