Football: Waddle ready to face music on derby day

Sunderland 1 Nottingham Forest 1: as Sunderland and Southampton are drawn deeper into the danger zone after victory eludes them
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The Independent Online
Having renewed acquaintance with one of his pizza-loving pals on Saturday, Chris Waddle might consider contacting the other before his next slice of Premiership action. The paper bag Gareth Southgate puts over his head would probably come in handy at St James' Park on Saturday week.

"I could certainly do with some cotton wool for my ears," Waddle mused, anticipating the likelihood of a hostile reception when he returns to Newcastle in the "enemy" camp for the Tyne-Wear derby. With away supporters banned, Sunderland's new recruit will not be the only visiting player without a friend in the house.

Though three points still separated the Wearsiders from the Premiership relegation places after Waddle's debut appearance on Saturday, it was impossible not to look to the immediate future with some trepidation on behalf of Peter Reid and his players. After the short trip to Tyneside, where the expected return of Alan Shearer is unlikely to make their afternoon any easier, they play Liverpool at home and Middlesbrough away.

No wonder Dave Bassett was such a relieved man after Saturday's Roker denouement. Waddle, having wrong-footed Stuart Pearce, fired his one chance wide and Des Lyttle lashed in the equaliser that keeps Forest within three points of Sunderland.

"It was important that they didn't open a six-point gap on us," Bassett, Forest's general manager, said. "If we make sure we win a few of our games maybe they will lose a few."

The latter will remain a distinct possibility while Sunderland persist in their fight against the relegation tide without a marksman of Premier quality. On Saturday they looked precisely what they have been throughout their backs-to-the-wall campaign: a team lacking a focal point.

Michael Bridges struck Mark Crossley's crossbar in the early stages but the Forest keeper was only troubled once more: when Kevin Ball volleyed Waddle's left-wing corner past him just after the hour. That Ball, a natural defender, is now Sunderland's joint-top scorer with four goals highlights his team's plight.

Worrying where the next goal might come from will continue to be a vital concern for the Wearsiders unless Reid manages to secure a proven goalscorer before Thursday's transfer deadline.

Forest, at least, have Pierre van Hooijdonk. The pounds 4.5m Dutchman may have been guilty of scuffing a good first-half chance on Saturday but his presence alone galvanised Forest as an attacking force and he would have opened his account for his new club had Lionel Perez not tipped over his goal- bound header with 15 minutes left.

"Pierre has done well for us so far," Bassett said. "He's done everything except put the ball in the back of the net. Hopefully he's saving his goals for one of the big games."

As it happens, Forest have one of those, down at the Riverside, tonight.

Goals: Ball (61) 1-0; Lyttle (86) 1-1.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Perez; Hall, Howey, Ord, Kubicki; Gray, Ball, Bracewell, Waddle; Rae, Bridges (Stewart, 73). Substitutes not used: Kelly, Russell, Eriksson, Preece (gk).

Nottingham Forest (3-5-2): Crossley; Chettle, Cooper, Pearce; Phillips, Haland, Lyttle, Gemmill, Woan (Roy, 66); Saunders (Moore, 70), Van Hooijdonk. Substitutes not used: Lee, O'Neil, Fettis (gk).

Referee: P Alcock (Redhill, Surrey). Booked: Forest: Woan.

Man of the match: Ball. Attendance: 22,120.