Nottingham Forest maintained their unbeaten home record as they came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Middlesbrough on a dramatic evening at The City Ground.The visitors established a two-goal lead but were pegged back by efforts from Forest’s substitutes Matt Derbyshire and Darius Henderson.
Strikes from Kei Kamara and George Friend had stunned the home crowd before Derbyshire reduced the arrears with 20 minutes still to play.
And Forest got the point they richly deserved when Henderson popped up for the second game running to preserve Forest’s impressive record at The City Ground.
Billy Davies made one change to the side that started in the weekend win over Barnsley as Guy Moussi was replaced by Djamal Abdoun, after the Algerian made an impressive impact from the bench against The Tykes.
Some slick football from Forest gave them the game’s first opportunity as Radi Majewski received Jamie Mackie’s through ball. The diminutive midfielder saw his snap-shot blocked away by the experienced Dean Whitehead.
Despite their bright start, The Reds were dealt an early blow on ten minutes as Kelvin Wilson pulled up inside his own penalty area and limped off to be replaced by the versatile Greg Halford.
The visitors were looking to bounce back from their 3-1 defeat at Ipswich on Saturday and they fashioned their first chance just a minute later as Albert Adomah, their goalscorer at Portman Road, spun on the edge of the area and fired a warning shot just wide of Karl Darlow’s post.
Middlesbrough were finding confidence but as they attacked, Forest almost picked them off with a well-worked counter-attack. Cox was able to latch onto Chris Cohen’s intelligent pull-back but the Irishman’s shot lacked power and was easily cleared.
Cox and Forest were soon left to rue that miss as Tony Mowbray’s side took the lead moments later.
The dangerous Adomah escaped down the right-wing channel and his sweeping cross was turned home by Kamara, making his first start for Middlesbrough, from just inside the six-yard box.
But ten minutes before the interval Forest were presented with a golden opportunity of their own as, from Abdoun’s cross, Majewski was scythed down in the area by Boro captain Rhys Williams and Premier League referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot.
Reid stepped up to take the spot-kick but the Irishman was denied by a tremendous diving save by Steele. From the resultant corner, Halford headed over as Boro held on to their slender lead.
Searching to get an equaliser before the interval, Forest saw the majority of the ball towards the end of the half but couldn’t fashion any further clear sights of goal and left the field trailing 1-0.
There were no changes for either side at the break but The Reds were unfortunate not to be level with six minutes gone in the second period.
Another dangerous cross from Abdoun was almost turned into his own net by Whitehead but Steele was able to get across his line and acrobatically fingertip the ball away to safety.
Minutes after seeing that opportunity drift away, Forest found themselves two goals behind courtesy of Friend’s stunning effort.
After some excellent hold-up play from Marvin Emnes and Leadbitter, the former Sunderland man laid the ball into the path of Friend and the left back ran on and thumped a stinging drive into the top corner of Darlow’s net.
Davies responded by making a double change which saw Derbyshire and Henderson replace Cox and Majewski.
And the manager was left frustrated shortly afterwards as Abdoun produced a clever run to break into the penalty area but, with space opening up for him, the Algerian couldn’t get a shot away and Boro were able to clear.
At the other end, the visitors were shooting on sight and Leadbitter was the next man to have a go at goal as his low effort was saved, albeit at the second attempt, by Darlow.
This time it was Middlesbrough’s turn to rue a missed opportunity as Forest stormed towards The Trent End and halved the deficit.
The visitors struggled to clear their lines and Reid’s pinpoint cross landed straight on the head of Derbyshire. The striker was able to guide his header past the despairing dive of Steele, off the post and into the far corner.
Forest were firmly in the ascendancy now and could have had their second penalty of the evening.
Henderson rounded goalkeeper Steele and, with only an empty net to aim at, went down under the challenge of two Middlesbrough defenders.
Referee Dowd wasn’t convinced by the fall though and booked the striker for diving, much to the exasperation of The City Ground faithful.
Mowbray quickly sensed his side was on the back foot and replaced Marvin Emnes, who was booked for time-wasting as he headed off, with Emanuel Ledesma.
That tactic was to prove to no avail for the away side as they lost the lead within the next two minutes.
Eric Lichaj sprinted towards the by-line and pulled back a superb ball to Henderson. The substitute was in the right place to stab the ball past Steele and send The City Ground crowd into raptures.
In the final minute of stoppage time, Middlesbrough substitute Emanuel Ledesma was sent off for a late lunge from behind on Henri Lansbury.
And despite a constant barrage on the Middlesbrough goal, The Reds couldn’t find a winner in the final ten minutes.
Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Hobbs, Wilson (Halford 10'), Cohen (c), Abdoun, Majewski (Henderson 58'), Lansbury, Reid, Mackie, Cox (Derbyshire 58')
Subs not used: De Vries, Jara, Moussi, Paterson
Scorers: Derbyshire 69', Henderson 79'
Bookings: Cox, Henderson, Lichaj
Middlesbrough: Steele, Williams (c), Whitehead, Richardson, Emnes (Ledesma 76'), Friend, Kamara (Jutkiewicz 81'), Leadbitter, Adomah (Carayol 80'), Butterfield, Woodgate
Subs not used: Luetwiler, Gibson, Hoyte, Smallwood
Scorers: Kamara 17', Friend 55'
Bookings: Leadbitter, Williams, Adomah, Kamara
Sent off: Ledesma
Referee: Phil Dowd
Attendance: 19,509 (Away: 650)