BORO COULD BE SET FOR NERVOUS FINISH
FULL credit to Forest. This was a defensive display to rival anything Boro’s shut-out artists have produced this season.
Disciplined, organised, ruthless and smart – Dougie Freedman’s men be a group effort. I’m not having individual performances being praised when the team loses. I’m not having stars of the show. I want spirit, togetherness and the work ethic you saw here.
“We defended better than Middlesbrough. And, in the end, we attacked better than MIddlesbrough. That’s why we got the result.”
Three weeks ago, Boro destroyed title-rivals Derby with a display full of verve and invention, seemingly banishing memories of last year’s toothless demise. were a model of concentration for the full 95 minutes and Jamie Ward’s opportunistic winner was just reward for a per-
Against a Forest side with a gameplan and the brains to enact it, those ghosts burst from the grave like Bela Lugosi.
Freedman’s side are no mugs. Unbeaten in 11, they sat deep, deployed five defenders and basically invited Boro to take their best shot.The response barely amounted to a tentative jab, let alone the haymakers that felled the Rams. Gobbled up by Michael Mancienne, Stewart Downing was so ineffective that he was withdrawn at half-time.
“It was not a difficult decision,” said a stony-faced Aitor Karanka. formance that stifled and frustrated in equal measure. But if a second defeat in succession is no call for alarm, it does leave Aitor Karanka with some worrying issues.
On form and in front, the Teessiders are “When someone is not playing well, you have to change him.”
Grant Leadbitter, usually such a lynchpin for the home side, hit the bar with a beautifully crafted freekick but was otherwise swamped by Gary Gardner and Robert Tesche.
David Nugent found neither space nor time. Passes went sideways and backwards, and eventually astray as frustration took hold.
In the end, it took Middlesbrough an hour to craft their only solid golden chance, an Albert Adomah unbeatable. But in tight games against defensive opponents – and especially when they fall behind – there is neither a plan B nor a genuine No.10 willing to take on a man or play a killer pass.
The anticipated arrival cross that Emilio Nsue somehow headed over from six yards.
It was a miss that would prove costly.
Just a few minutes later, Forest countered as Ward fed the charging Ben Osborn out wide. Osborn, who had earlier rattled the post with a venomous strike, returned the compliment with a cut back for Ward, who opened his body to place precisely beyond Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Bang out of ideas, Boro failed to mount any kind of response, with Karanka veering between blaming of Ross McCormack should help fill the void left by Lee Tomlin’s summer departure but, unless Boro can ditch the inherent caution that cost them so dearly last year, the run-in could be very nervous indeed. himself and demanding January recruits.
“I needed to do something and I didn’t have the right players to make the substitution I wanted to make,” said the Spaniard, whose side now trail Hull by a point.
“But I do not want to be too negative. We have had a bad week but we are still at the top of the league. That is not an accident.
“My concern we are losing the games and not playing well but I have made mistakes and they can be worked on. I know what is wrong.”
THREAT: Cristhian Stuani heads wide of the Forest goal. Inset: Aitor Karanka remonstrates with the assistant referee
STAR MAN MICHA MANC EL