Nottingham Forest fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough this afternoon after two first-half goals consigned them to a loss.
Daniel Ayala and Stewart Downing strikes were enough for Boro as they continued their charge for the Championship play-offs, and the result made it back-to-back defeats for The Reds as Aitor Karanka tasted defeat on his return to the Riverside Stadium.
The Reds made one change from the side beaten at Millwall over the Easter weekend, with Kieran Dowell returning from injury to replace Barrie McKay in midfield.
After a fairly balanced opening five minutes of the first-half, it was the home side that were first to put their name on the scoresheet after just seven minutes. The Reds failed to clear a corner and the ball fell to former Forest loanee Daniel Ayala who was given room to turn and shoot inside the penalty area and beat Costel Pantilimon with a neat finish.
It was a blow for Forest who had looked bright early on, retaining possession well and threatening through Joe Lolley in particular.
The home side, now full of confidence, nearly added a second 10 minutes later. Stuart Downing was denied after a last ditch tackle by Ben Osborn prevented him from getting his shot away after Patrick Bamford squared the ball to the former Liverpool man. Downing, however, didn't have to wait long before he had another opportunity to get on the scoresheet and this time he made no mistake on the half-hour mark.
Again, a loose ball fell to the midfielder inside the area and this time he powered a right-footed effort low and hard past Pantilimon through a body of defenders.
The Reds ended the first half strongly with a sustained spell of pressure on the home side's goal, with former Boro man Lee Tomlin testing Darren Randolph at the end of the half, forcing the keeper to tip his stinging effort around the post.
Both sides came out for the second half on the front foot as first Ayala nearly added to his tally with an acrobatic overhead attempt from inside the six-yard box but he was unable to keep his effort down, then minutes later Lolley broke into the host's half and squared the ball to Colback inside the area but the Newcastle loanee couldn't divert the ball goalwards.
Ben Brereton and McKay were introduced from the bench and those changes nearly had an immediate impact when Brereton had a glorious opportunity to get Forest back into the match on 65 minutes. McKay played in the striker who turned neatly in the penalty area but failed to get his shot away in time and was eventually closed down by Ayala.
Forest were now in complete control of the match with the home side struggling to get any sort of rhythm going. Lolley, who had been lively all match, went close with 10 minutes to go as he curled a left-footed effort towards the bottom corner, however Randolph got down well and gathered.
Time was running out for The Reds who were now throwing everybody forward in search of a comeback, but Middlesbrough looked content and were happy to pick their moment to break.
Former Red Britt Assombalonga came off the bench to create a few openings on the counter attack. Firstly, he teed up Bamford whose shot skimmed the post and went wide and then he had two goalscoring chances of his own, skewing wide when one-on-one and being denied by Pantilimon.
Ultimately though it was a frustrating afternoon for The Reds as they couldn't find a way through a solid Boro defence and they left the Riverside with a defeat.
Forest: Pantilimon, Darikwa, Figueiredo, Fox, Osborn, Watson (c), Colback, Dowell (McKay 59'), Tomlin, Lolley, Vellios (Brereton 59')
Unused subs: Kapino, Lichaj, Mancienne, Guedioura, Bridcutt
Bookings: Dowell 13', Figueiredo 34'
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Leadbitter (c), Howson, Besic (Clayton 63'), Traore (Assombalonga 81'), Downing, Bamford (Cranie 89')
Unused subs: Konstantopoulos, Fabio, Fry, Harrison
Goals: Ayala 7', Downing 31'
Booking: Shotton 57'
Referee: David Webb
Attendance: 25,812 (1,173 away)