Report by Andrew Butler
A spirited fightback from Nottingham Forest could not stop them falling to a 2-1 defeat to ten-man Middlesbrough.
Two goals either side of half-time for the hosts was enough to claim all three points despite Joel Lynch halving the deficit and Kevin Thomson being sent off for Boro.
It was an opening 25 minutes bereft of open chances, with Marvin Emnes and Lukas Jutkiewicz both shooting well wide from outside the area for the hosts, and Forest's best opening saw McCleary fire over from 18 yards after a neat exchange with Marlon Harewood.
The game opened up after this point as both sides struggled to retain possession. On 25 minutes Ishmael Miller carried the ball 40 yards before firing over from just outside the box.
Both sides pressed and created their best chance of the match on 34 minutes, but from George Elokobi's cross, Miller could only head straight at Boro goalkeeper Jason Steele from 8 yards. Instantly the hosts broke on the counter attack, but Emnes' fierce strike from 25 yards went well over Lee Camp's goal.
As the half closed in the home side looked most likely to break the deadlock, and they did on the stroke of half time. Forest could not clear efficiently from a corner, and the ball broke to Emnes, who advanced into the penalty area from the left, and as he placed the ball towards Camp's bottom-right corner, a slight deflection saw the ball divert into the goal.
The half time break saw two changes for Forest, with Joel Lynch and Robbie Findlay replacing Harewood and Miller.
However the momentum was still with Middlesbrough, who doubled their lead just 52 seconds in the second period, and after Jutkiewicz turned Danny Higginbotham on the edge of the area, he sent a low drive past Camp's right hand to make it 2-0.
After this the home side rallied and looked to add to their advantage, as Rhys Williams headed over from a corner, and Jutkiewicz flashing a shot over from range.
The introduction of Andy Reid for Scott Wooton on 60 minutes made an almost instant impact, when on 66 minutes after Chris Gunter was fouled, Reid delivered a cross from the right that was flicked home by Joel Lynch.
Forest could sense an equaliser, and were given a huge boost after Boro midfielder Kevin Thomson was shown two yellow cards in the space of seven minutes, giving the visitors a one-man advantage.
The hosts were almost made to pay on 81 minutes as Adlene Guedioura crashed a stunning strike from 30 yards off the bar, but unfortunately for Forest it just stayed out.
The visitors spent a large portion of the final 10 minutes inside the Boro half, but could not make the pressure pay as they fell to their ninth away loss of the season.
Middlesbrough:Steele, Williams, Thomson, Hoyte, Arca, Bates(C), Hines, Emnes(McMahon, 77min), Jutkiewicz(Main 80min), Haroun(Smallwood 54min), Bennett.
Subs not used: Ogbeche, Halliday,
Bookings: Bennett 65min,, Thomson 67min, 74min RED CARD
Scorers: Emnes 45min, Jutkiewicz 46min
Camp, Chambers(C), Wootton(Reid 60min), Higginbotham, Elokobi, Gunter, McCleary, Moussi, Guedioura, Harewood(Lynch 45minHT), Miller(Findley 45minHT)
Subs not used: Smith, Blackstock,
Bookings:Gunter 87min, Chambers 88min
Scorer: Lynch 66min
Referee: Paul Tierney
Attendance: 14,799 Away attn: 462