Cat's Eye View: How did promising Sunderland striker Josh Maja perform on his full debut against Nottingham Forest?

December 2017 has been a month promising Sunderland striker Josh Maja won't forget.

Sunday, 31st December 2017, 6:49 am
Updated Sunday, 31st December 2017, 6:55 am
Striker Josh Maja controls the ball at the City Ground.

Maja scored the winner against Fulham at the Stadium of Light to end the home hoodoo - his first for the club - and made his first start in the victory over Nottingham Forest.

The forward, who turned 19 this week, was given the responsibility of leading the line at the City Ground after Chris Coleman made three changes to the side thrashed by Sheffield United on Boxing Day.

Sunderland striker Josh Maja in action against Nottingham Forest. Pictures by Frank Reid.

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Coleman, like his predecessor Simon Grayson, hasn't been afraid to throw the youngsters in and Maja would have played games under Grayson had a knee injury suffered in pre-season not ruled him out of the opening months.

Maja caught the eye of Coleman in the new manager's very first training sessions at the Academy of Light and made a positive impact from the bench against Fulham, scoring with a cool finish.

With Lewis Grabban again missing with a calf injury, Maja's reward for his performances from the bench in recent weeks was a start at Forest and he didn't let anybody down.

Given how much possession Mark Warburton's Forest side had, it was always going to be a tough ask for Maja to lead the line with Sunderland having a lot of defending to do.

Sunderland striker Josh Maja in action against Nottingham Forest. Pictures by Frank Reid.

But he carried out his duties well and worked hard throughout.

Maja may not possess rapid pace but he does have an impressive first touch, which he showcased in the first half, is intelligent in his play and his movement is good.

Maja, who had Callum McManaman and Aiden McGeady providing support from wide areas, was almost in on goal within the first 90 seconds.

Darron Gibson laid the ball to Maja but he couldn't get it from beneath his feet and Forest cleared, he was in otherwise.

He showed good strength at times but half an hour in was at fault for a promising Sunderland move breaking down, Coleman showing his frustration.

Maja to his credit worked hard and had a hand in the goal, carrying the ball forward before playing it out wide to Adam Matthews who whipped in a glorious cross from the left wing on to the head of McGeady.

The teenager is raw and clearly has plenty to work on but the potential is certainly there and Sunderland appear to have a real talent on their hands.

Maja had defensive duties in the second half as Forest cranked up the pressure in an unsuccessful attempt at drawing level, the striker clearing one corner with a header.

His impact lessened as the game wore on and Sunderland needed more of a physical presence in the final third, hence Coleman's decision to replace the teenage striker with the more experienced James Vaughan on 65 minutes.

Maja won praise from Coleman for his performance, with Vaughan also commended for his efforts as Sunderland held on for a precious three points.

Coleman said: "Josh was great. There is more to come from him.

"He has to share the load at Forest and against Barnsley on Monday with Vaughany. There were some lovely movements in his play and he is very intelligent.

"I thought Vaughany when he came on did well too, he was a threat and is so powerful, strong and physical and he played a part as well."

Coleman must now decide whether to keep faith with Maja up front for the visit of Paul Heckingbottom's Barnsley, hand James Vaughan a start or play the pair of them together.