DEXTER SUPPLIES A CUTTING EDGE
AMISSED opportunity or a lucky escape? Aitor Karanka was doing well to think positively by regarding Middlesbrough’s defeat to Nottingham Forest as the latter when he left the City Ground.
While Forest’s resurgence continued under Dougie Freedman by closing the gap to the top six to nine points with a hard-earned victory, Boro dropped down to fourth after failing to make the most of a lead secured by Grant Leadbitter in the 27th minute.
Fourth place, however, is not all it seems. Despite losing for the second successive Saturday, Middlesbrough remain level on points – along with secondplaced Derby and third-placed Watford – with leaders Bournemouth.
It is not the situation Karanka, whose side were undone by Craig Gardner’s first-half stunner and then Dexter Blackstock’s winner 25 minutes before the end, had been demanding before the game, but he has had to accept it ahead of this Saturday’s visit of Ipswich to the Riverside.
“We are disappointed because we knew we played against a good team, a team which was in a good run and with good players,” said Karanka.
“I think we have done the most difficult thing which was to score the first goal and then after that we lost the control of the ball.
“But the best thing is we are still at the top of the table despite losing. Every day I learn about my players and my work.
“I need to keep learning and this is one of those days again.
“One thing that can determine who wins this league will be who can deal with the pressure. The team that manages the pressure best has more chance of going up.
“The teams that have the players, determined players, can have an advantage.
“The teams which are fresh also have a strong chance because this league is very tough. We have ten games to go and the teams that arrive fresh will be strong.”
Freedman was delighted with the way Forest returned to win- ning ways to earn a sixth victory from eight since he took over from Stuart Pearce – suggesting that he felt they had beaten the team that will win the Championship.
And while Forest are not thinking about the top two, they are not ready to give up on a top-six spot just yet.
Freedman said: “It was a superhuman effort. We defended for our lives against the best squad. We had a game plan, we stuck to it and it really was a super-human effort to get the three points.
“It was probably more than three points when I look at it.
“I am just here to say what a great performance. Can we get a play-off place? History will tell you there is a late runner and teams can drop out, all we can do is keep winning games. We are very confident.”
When Leadbitter’s cross to the back post dropped in after hitting both the woodwork and defender Michael Mancienne, Middlesbrough looked full of confidence and in control.
After that, despite having 26 shots (four on target), Middlesbrough failed to add a second and Forest levelled seven minutes after the opener. Gard- ner picked up possession 20 yards out and curled a precise finish in to the top-left corner.
Middlesbrough controlled possession after the restart but, with the exception of a deflected Kike shot which went wide, goalkeeper Karl Darlow was never seriously tested.
But then Michail Antonio successfully rounded Tomas Kalas in the 65th minute before rolling the ball to Blackstock after a lovely counter attack. The striker, who had scored just once in 17 months before yesterday, took a touch and powered a finish beyond Dimi Konstantopoulos.
RETURN TO FORM: Dexter Blackstock is congratulated on Forest’s winner
THREAT: Middlesbrough’s Kike shoots at goal