Sunderland vs Bolton match report
Sunderland were given an early Christmas present today by beating Bolton 1-0 at the Stadium of Light.
On-loan striker Danny Welbeck grabbed his fifth goal of the campaign after reacting quickest after Darren Bent`s shot was saved.
Craig Gordon also produced an outstanding save to deny Zak Knight and keep another clean sheet, their eighth of the season so far and their third consecutively.
With four of the six games being postponed, that result now leaves Steve Bruce`s men in joint fifth place over the festive period.
Prior to the game kicking off Gordon would reclaim his starting place, regardless of a solid performance from Simon Mignolet last week.
Anton Ferdinand made a shock and swift recall to the starting line up after initially being ruled out for a month with a hamstring injury he picked up at Craven Cottage.
Bolton started and finished the game as the stronger side and fell victim to chucking away key chances throughout the game, more notably Ivan Klasnic with two.
Kevin Davis early shot ricocheted off team mate Johan Elmander after Matt Taylor`s neat and tidy approach down the left flank.
Kieran Richardson tried and instant counter attack with a burst of speed towards the box but Gary Cahill`s last ditch challenge ended it.
Then Sunderland`s defensive problems went from bad to worse with John Mensah limping off to be replaced by Ahmed Elmohamady.
Although it was reported Titus Bramble was seen jogging around the pitch before the game for his rehab, it can`t bode well for Bruce and his ever eroding resources for the rest of the winter.
It won`t help also with the suspension of skipper Lee Cattermole who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season; he will miss the trip away to Manchester United on Boxing Day.
The on-loan forward's contribution has been a key reason for the recent resurgence of a Sunderland side previously over-reliant on Bent and Asamoah Gyan for its goals.
Jordan Henderson's cross looked to have been over hit, but Bent stretched out a leg and brilliantly controlled the ball before firing in a shot that Jussi Jaaskelainen kept out one-handed, only for Welbeck to head in the rebound.
Leading up to half time the Bolton could have pulled a goal back but a breathtaking piece of goalkeeping denied them.
An unmarked Cahill managed to head across a Taylor corner into the feet of Knight but Gordon brilliant reacted and clawed the defenders effort over the bar less than five yards away.
The Trotters continued the second half as they left the first, attacking and continually pressing but no matter how many times they huffed, the home side`s makeshift back four to very limited chances on goal.
Welbeck then could have doubled his tally and the lead on the day after Bent miscued his shot, he side footed his shot only for it to clip the outside of the post.
Klasnic and Cahill were both denied late on, while Sunderland's Bolo Zenden headed wide in a flurry of late chances.
After the game manager Steve Bruce praise his side and delighted to be sitting in joint fifth placed for Christmas.
Talking to SAFC.com he said, "There`s nothing like a clean sheet with all of the problems we`ve got defensively but our resilience was there for all to see.
"We had a great chance to get a second goal from Danny Welbeck, but he missed it unfortunately, however, I`m very pleased to be going into Christmas sitting level fifth in the league - it`s a fantastic achievement from everybody concerned.
"If we keep playing the way we are keep our feet on the ground and showing that resilience the future bears well.
Bruce then paid tribute to his strikers and also Craig Gordon after his wonder save.
"It was great ability from Darren Bent to get his shot over to Danny for the goal.
e've got three lads at the moment out on that pitch who are all capable of scoring goals. Asamoah, Darren and Danny they can all score." He continued.
"Craig Gordon`s save was a wonder-save. It was first class, right up there with Jimmy Montgomery and Gordon Banks - it was that type of quality. It was world class.
"It was a big game for us. My fear was that they would get into our box, they`ve got two big men up front to cause us problems but thankfully even with our defensive problems we`ve stood strong against them and got another 1-0 win."