After losing to Cardiff City on Saturday, Nottingham Forest were defeated again last night by a Middlesbrough side that scored the only goal on Teeside. Tyler Jelley offers a fan’s eye view from the Riverside Stadium.

After witnessing the 3-0 capitulation at the hands of Cardiff at the weekend, I was strangely optimistic on my way to Middlesbrough — whether it was because they’d only managed eight points out of 51 available this year, or because I am an optimist, I don’t know. I thought the side would be raring to go after Billy Davies’ first defeat and figured he’d have rattled them in the dressing room and on the training ground.

My optimism was further increased when we put out, what I believe to be, our strongest side — playing Billy Sharp and Simon Cox up front, giving Sharp the chance I believe he needs under Davies. We dominated the early stages of the game and in the fifth minute Sharp nearly took his chance but a good save from Boro keeper Jason Steele kept him at bay. The first 10 minutes was all Forest but then around the 15th minute mark, Adlene Guedioura, who I usually rate very highly, tried to be ‘fancy’ and dummied the ball, landing it straight in the path of Scott McDonald, the Boro striker, but Karl Darlow palmed his shot over.

The game became fairly even after that with neither side having many chances. Boro won a corner about 20 minutes later, which came to nothing, but Forest broke and Henri Lansbury played a delightful ball down the right wing for Cox to run on too, take past the defender and cross for Sharp who headed agonisingly wide. Forest looked to have the edge again winning a free-kick about 40 yards out two minutes later; it was delivered by Lewis McGugan and some great work by Cox kept the ball in play, drawing the keeper out toward his byline. Cox crossed and Elliot Ward, somehow, headed over from six yards with the goal gaping. I’m still puzzled now as to how he didn’t score.

After good pressure and opportunities, in typical Forest style, we conceded in the 42nd minute. Josh McEachran, the loanee from Chelsea, played a through-ball towards the path of Mustapha Carayol who cut inside, took a touch and slotted home. Sam Hutchinson appeared to be ball watching, following the path of the ball from McEachran, and didn’t have a clue that Carayol was behind him — pretty poor defending.

I was still confident that we could take all three points as the second-half kicked off; the goal Boro scored was the only real threat they caused us, and that was a mistake. Unfortunately, my confidence was just false hope. Sharp had a half-chance five minutes in, forcing Steele into a save. Ten minutes in, Karl Darlow, who I have been pretty impressed with, could have cost us massively. He had the ball at his feet, took too long with it and tried a dummy shot past the striker — failing miserably — and just about recovered to prevent a goal, giving them a corner.

The game was going nowhere really and only one outcome looked likely. Forest looked lacklustre and, to be honest, looked like they didn’t want to be there. Boro created a few more half-chances but they came to nothing. In the last five minutes, Forest’s best opportunity came, with Greg Halford, Dexter Blackstock, Sharp, Cox and McGugan up front. The ball broke down the left-hand side and McGugan, with some good footwork, cut across the defender then got tackled but the ball just popped up nicely for Chris Cohen who volleyed it, about an inch too far past the post. This was when we knew it wasn’t going to go in for us. With virtually the last kick of the game Radi Majewski had a shot that rose just over the bar, and that was that. Game over.

Cohen would have been my man of the match for Forest but in this case it’s ‘the best of a bad bunch’ — he puts his heart and soul into every game and this cannot be faulted. Guedioura struggled to hold on to the ball and misplaced almost every pass he made. Andy Reid failed to complete practically every pass again and went missing in the game. And while McGugan has scored six in seven games, he needs to understand he can’t shoot from 30 yards every time he gets it, he was far too greedy and selfish.

The standout player for Middlesbrough was Carayol, exactly the type of player we need at Forest — a pacy winger, who can finish and isn’t afraid to beat a man. Rhys Williams also had a good game at the back, no mistakes were made and he was dominant in the air.

Although all seems lost, there is still everything to play for — after all, we are still only three points off fourth place. The most overused line for Forest fans remains ‘keep the faith’.

You can follow Tyler on Twitter: @TylerJelley

Image: Courtesy of nuttakit/

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