Nottingham Forest had to settle for a point from the visit of high-flying Middlesbrough to The City Ground, despite dominating for long spells of the game.Sean O’Driscoll’s men reacted positively to Saturday’s 4-1 home defeat by Millwall by producing a vastly improved display but were unable to find a way past Team GB Olympic goalkeeper Jason Steele.
Billy Sharp came closest to giving the vast majority of the crowd of 20,150 the breakthrough goal they craved when he struck an upright in the closing stages. `
Andy Reid and Elliott Ward also went close to securing a happier ending on a night of frustration for all those of a Red persuasion.
Boss O’Driscoll made two changes to the side that had started against Millwall four days earlier.
Adlene Guedioura returned in midfield in place of the injured Radi Majewski, while Greg Halford was preferred at right back to Brendan Moloney after completing a one-match suspension.
Forest’s No.1 Lee Camp was the first of the goalkeepers to be called into action, although he dealt comfortably with Scott McDonald’s shot on the turn from outside the area.
That proved to be the only save Camp had to make in the first half as Forest dominated for long spells without finding a way past Steele.
Reid went close with a curling shot from just outside the area after excellent approach play from Simon Cox down the right.
Reid was involved again in another bright moment for The Reds in the 15th minute. His first time lay-off from Guedioura’s ball into the area found Sharp who was just inches away from giving his side the lead.
Forest had lukewarm appeals for a penalty waved away when Chris Cohen went down under a challenge from Andre Bikey, while only a superb block from George Friend denied Guedioura after another quick-fire break from Cox down the left.
Sharp wasted the best opportunity of the first half three minutes the break as he scuffed a shot wide of the target from six yards out after Cox had drilled in a cross from the right.
Steele made a sprawling save to keep out a shot from Guedioura at the expense of a corner as Forest looked to forge the breakthrough their performance merited on the stroke of half-time.
Sharp again failed to hit the target – this time with a header – from a corner in the opening minute of the second half.
A left-wing cross from an unlikely source, central defender Elliott Ward, grazed the top of Steele’s crossbar after Boro had only partially cleared a corner.
But Forest survived a scare in the 66th minute when Grant Leadbitter’s ball over the top left McDonald with just Camp to beat. The ‘keeper, however, was quickly off his line to make an excellent block.
Boro ‘skipper Leadbitter went close to breaking the deadlock himself in spectacular style three minutes later as his shot from fully 30 yards out appeared to strike the outside of Camp’s right-hand upright.
The woodwork definitely came to Boro’s rescue 15 minutes from time – Sharp held off the challenge of Seb Hines before lashing a fiercely struck shot against Steele’s left-hand upright.
Ward went close with an audacious overhead kick from a partially cleared corner, while Camp was forced to make a sprawling save at the feet of Lukas Jutkiewicz after a speedy counter-attack by Faris Haroun.
Reid squandered a golden opportunity to snatch a late opener when he somehow failed to make contact with a Sharp cross from the right from six yards out.
Reprieved, Boro counter-attacked swiftly and McDonald sent a lob onto the roof of the Forest net after Haroun had picked him out in an unmarked position in the area.
O’Driscoll made a triple change in the dying minutes as he introduced Brendan Moloney, Dexter Blackstock and Henri Lansbury but the game finished goalless.
Forest: Camp, Halford, Ward, Collins (c), Harding (Moloney 88'), Gillett, Cohen, Guedioura, Reid (Lansbury 89'), Cox (Blackstock 88'), Sharp.
Subs not used: Darlow, McGugan, Tudgay, Coppinger.
Booking: Guedioura 71'
Middlesbrough: Steele, McEachran, Friend, Hines, Jutkiewicz (Ledesma 80'), Parnaby (Hoyte 46'), Bailey, McDonald (Zemmama 85'), Haroun, Bikey, Leadbitter (c).
Subs not used: Leutwiler, Williams, Smallwood, Reach.
Booking: Leadbitter 68'
Referee: S Hooper
Attendance: 20,150 (Away: 1,167)