Match Report: Nottingham Forest 0 Middlesbrough 0
AFTER climbing out of his sickbed to make the journey to Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray will have been revived by seeing his side cling on to a point at the City Ground.
Instead it was Forest who were struck by a malaise in front of goal, as they failed to cap off an encouraging performance by converting any of their numerous chances.
Billy Sharp was denied by the post, Elliott Ward hit the bar and sent an overhead kick narrowly wide and Andy Reid failed to make contact when presented with a chance to finish off Boro from close range.
And Boro, despite being second best for long periods, might have snatched all three points if not for a goal-line clearance from Danny Collins.
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In the opposite dug-out, Sean O'Driscoll will have been pleased with his side's performance - but scratching his head over how they failed to claim all three points.
Some Forest fans began to get slightly restless after seeing their side give away possession rather too easily in the opening five minutes, as they struggled to find their fluidity.
Simon Gillett, hoping for something to celebrate on his 27th birthday, spearheaded a promising quick break that came to nothing, while Simon Cox twice had crosses charged down after Forest had engineered promising positions down the right.
Middlesbrough saw Scott McDonald, their in-form front-man, denied a run on goal by a tight looking offside decision. But it was Forest, you sensed, who were edging closer to carving out a meaningful chance.
That proved to be the case as, in the space of two minutes, the home side twice came close to scoring.
Reid cleverly delayed a shot, after being picked out by Cox, but ultimately bent the ball narrowly wide after two Boro players had committed themselves to sliding blocks.
And then, following more good build-up play, along with some clever footwork from the striker, Sharp hit a low shot into the side netting.
O'Driscoll had been critical of his side's defending from set pieces following the 4-1 home defeat at the hands of Millwall. But they survived their first test on that front as Lee Camp confidently claimed a Boro corner from Josh McEachran.
Cohen's tireless running down the right was earning him plenty of space in which to operate, but without the midfielder being able to conjure up a decisive cross.
Middlesbrough, in contrast, were less fluid in their build-up play, but were managing to carve out half chances, with Faris Haroun firing wide, following an earlier effort from McDonald, following a neat turn on the edge of the penalty area, that had forced a capable save from Camp.
A charging run from Dan Harding gave Reid the chance to deliver from the left, but Seb Hines managed to rise to head clear, despite being under pressure from both Cohen and Cox.
Forest looked as though they would finally get the clear-cut chance they had worked to carve out when Cohen broke the offside trap down the centre, but the midfielder went down rather easily as Andre Bikey chased him down and referee Simon Hooper never looked convinced enough to point to the spot.
Forest were getting closer as Sharp and Cohen failed to provide the finishing touch to an incisive cross from Cox, with McEachran producing an outstanding, brave headed clearance when the ball broke for Adlene Guedioura to strike a powerful shot on the edge of the box.
The Algerian international had his third shot in the space of as many minutes as good play between Reid and Harding eventually saw him collect possession just inside the box. But, again, Guedioura could not keep his shot down.
Forest were building momentum and pressure and, after Cox had smashed a ball across the face of goal, Sharp's instinctive touch steered the ball narrowly wide. Cohen then flashed a low shot even closer to the target, with the ball bouncing a foot the wrong side of the post.
Jason Steele was forced into the best save of the game so far during first half injury time, as Guedioura demonstrated that he had finally found his range with a fiercely struck shot that was bound for the bottom corner, until the keeper got down quickly.
Forest began the second half with the same incisiveness and urgency as a corner within the first minute saw Sharp plant a header wide from Cohen's in-swinger. While Cox looked to have threaded Guedioura in, before the linesman intervened.
Halford tried his luck from almost 30 yards and was almost rewarded as a big deflection sent his shot looping close to goal. Elliott Ward then saw a driven cross bounce off the top of the bar, although it would have been fortunate had it found the net.
It required a vital challenge from skipper Collins to deny Middlesbrough a goal, after Lukas Jutkiewicz had beaten Camp to a through ball from Grant Leadbitter, with Collins sliding in to deny the striker the chance to prod the ball home from close range.
Leadbitter had Camp racing across goal for a second time, this time with a fizzing shot that had the Boro fans on their feet as it arrowed inches the wrong side of the post.
Forest's own opportunities were largely shots from distance, with Reid sending another dipping high and wide. Although, after a Cox had picked out Sharp's darting run, the striker managed to hold of Friend and smash a rising shot against a post.
Harding forced a corner, giving Reid the chance to pick out Ward, who initially did poorly with a free header but, then, a second later, almost made amends with a spectacular free-kick that was six inches away from finding the net, after taking a deflection.
Camp had to save bravely at the feet of Jutkiewicz after Haroun's pace had instigated a quick break.
Reid should have scored when Sharp picked him out unmarked in the centre, but failed to make contact ten yards from goal and, as Middlesbrough broke quickly, McDonald's lob landed on the roof of the net.
But, by the end, it was Boro who were hanging on for the draw.
Forest: Camp, Halford, Ward, Elliott, Harding (Moloney 88), Gillett, Cohen, Guedioura, Reid (Lansbury 89), Cox (Blackstock 89), Sharp. Subs: Darlow, McGugan, Tudgay, Coppinger.
Middlesbrough: Steele, McEacheran, Friend, Hines, Jutkiewicz (Ledesma 80), Parnaby (Hoyte 45), Bailey, McDonald (Zemmama 85), Haroun, Bikey, Leadbitter. Subs: Leutwiler, Williams, Smallwood, Reach.
Referee: Simon Hooper, Wiltshire.
Attendance: 20,150 (1,167).