Nottingham Forest suffered a second successive defeat after losing 1-0 at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium this evening.
The Reds failed to overturn Mustapha Carayol’s first-half opener - a goal which came after Forest had seen a number of good chances go begging.
Billy Davies made four changes to the side which lost 3-0 at Cardiff on Saturday. It was a new-look front line as Billy Sharp and Simon Cox replaced Dexter Blackstock and the suspended Darius Henderson.
In midfield, Andy Reid came in for Radoslaw Majewski, while Sam Hutchinson slotted in ahead of fellow right back Gonzalo Jara Reyes.
Forest made all the early running and, after Lewis McGugan had sent his fifth-minute free-kick over the bar, his corner shortly afterwards was met by the head of Simon Cox. Jason Steele did well to divert it over the bar.
The Reds had restricted their hosts to very little in the early stages, but that changed when Adlene Guedioura inexplicably let the ball run beyond him in the middle of the park. It rolled straight to Scott McDonald who, after checking on to his left, forced Karl Darlow in to an acrobatic save to keep the scores level.
On 27 minutes, the ball rolled towards Hutchinson’s feet at the corner of the area after a good move involving McGugan, Cohen and Reid. His shot deflected out for a corner and, from the resultant set-piece, McGugan volleyed high and wide.
Nine minutes later, Henri Lansbury’s quick free-kick released Cox into the right-hand channel. His excellent cross was met by Sharp, but the striker’s effort flew just wide.
Soon afterwards, Chris Cohen’s free-kick found its way to Cox at the byline. His lofted pull-back found Elliott Ward but, under pressure from Rhys Williams, his header from 6 yards went over.
And Forest were left to rue their missed chances as, for the sixth game in a row, they went a goal down.
Josh McEachran’s incisive pass on 42 minutes allowed Carayol to slip away from Hutchinson and fire the opening goal low beyond Darlow.
It was an unlikely opener for ‘Boro, who had a momentary scare as McGugan shaped a free-kick at goal on the stroke of half-time. It was comfortably dealt with by Steele, however.
And in the second of two added minutes, Carayol’s low effort from range brought a good save from Darlow.
Both sides emerged from the break unchanged, and the hosts made strides into Forest’s area on 51 minutes. Kieron Dyer latched on to Sammy Ameobi’s pass but the midfielder was halted by Greg Halford as he shaped to shoot.
Forest countered and Reid found Sharp on the right. His well-struck effort was held by Steele.
Five minutes later, Darlow had his heart in his mouth. He tried to take it around McDonald and appeared to be tripped. The referee waved play on and the ‘keeper recovered well to block the striker’s effort with his feet.
Guedioura was then replaced by Majewski.
On the hour mark, Halford’s cross caused panic in the ‘Boro area. Sharp controlled before he and Cox had swipes at goal with no success.
Ten minutes later, Jara Reyes replaced a tired-looking Hutchinson.
Middlesbrough almost doubled their lead on 74 minutes. Andy Halliday’s miscued shot headed straight for McDonald in the middle. The Australian couldn’t shift his feet in time and the ball bobbled out of his control. It instead found its way to Faris Haroun, who saw his effort blocked by Ward.
And the Belgian should have wrapped it up moments later. Richard Smallwood burst forward and cut it back for Haroun, who sent the ball high and wide from an unmarked position on the edge of the area.
Blackstock replaced Reid on 78 minutes to aid a Forest side who were desperately struggling to create anything - Cohen’s deflected effort into the side-netting a minute later came as a rare moment of excitement for the travelling 1,097 behind Steele’s net.
With six minutes to play, Carayol tricked his way into the area but left himself with too wide an angle and he could only fire over.
And Forest so nearly had an equaliser with two minutes of normal time to play. McGugan laid the ball into the path of the onrushing Cohen who flashed his shot agonisingly wide from just inside the area.
With the last kick of the game, Majewski sent a thunderbolt over the bar. But it wasn’t enough and The Reds left Teesside empty-handed.
Forest: Darlow, Cohen (c), Halford, Ward, Hutchinson (Jara 70'), Guedioura (Majewski 59'), McGugan, Lansbury, Reid (Blackstock 78'), Cox, Sharp
Subs not used: Evtimov, Collins, Moussi, Tudgay
Booking: Blackstock 90'
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Bikey, Williams, Halliday, Dyer (Reach 90'), Smallwood, McEachran (Bailey 63'), Carayol, Ameobi (Haroun 71'), McDonald
Subs not used: Leutwiler, McManus, Main
Scorer: Carayol 42'
Bookings: Williams 12', Smallwood 75'
Referee: Mark Heywood
Attendance: 13,861 (Away: 1,097)