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Match analysis: Nottingham Forest 2 Middlesbrough 2
Full-time: Nottingham Forest 2 Middlesbrough 2
TONY MOWBRAY has spoken at length about the crucial second goal and last night he got one at the City Ground, but it was still not enough for Middlesbrough.
For the second time inside four days Boro were unable to hang on to a lead, only this time Mowbray's men had secured a two-goal cushion before caving in.
The positive this time around was that Middlesbrough still emerged with a point against a Nottingham Forest team rated amongst the favourites for promotion to the Premier League this season.
But that is mere consolation on a night when Mowbray will know his players had – once more – victory within their grasp just days after losing 3-1 to Ipswich Town.
It means Middlesbrough – who stretched an unbeaten run to eight matches on their way to the top of the table on their last visit to the City Ground – are still searching for a second Championship win of the campaign.
That was exactly what looked on the cards when Kei Kamara's first goal for the club was followed by a George Friend thunderbolt in the second half. But Forest, who had seen Andy Reid miss a first half penalty when Jason Steele made an brilliant stop, bounced back with two goals in the final 22 minutes through substitutes Matt Derbyshire and Darius Henderson.
In the end Middlesbrough, who had Emanuel Ledesma red carded in stoppage-time, were indebted to Steele's heroics in goal otherwise it would have been a second defeat in a row.
The trip to Ipswich four days earlier had left Mowbray more frustrated with his team's display than at any other stage in the season, so he freshened his attack up and the move worked.
Mustapaha Carayol, who has only offered glimpses of the talent his manager thinks he has, and lone striker Lukas Jutkiewicz were the two to make way from the side which struggled to find the net at Portman Road.
That allowed Kamara, a £900,000 signing from Sporting Kansas City, to make his full debut on the left after a second half appearance as a substitute at the weekend and Marvin Emnes was recalled as a direct replacement for Jutkiewicz through the middle.
The two changes were designed to give Middlesbrough a different outlook in attack against a Forest team who had not lost at home and there was a vibrancy about the way the visitors started.
The earliest attack could easily have ended in a goal. Jacob Butterfield burst to the byline, cut in and then fired a cross towards Kamara but goalkeeper Karl Darlow held.
But there were early signs that Saturday's errors were not completely out of the system. Dean Whitehead wanted too much time in his own area, which invited heavy pressure, but Forest failed to test Steele.
There were a few stray passes, but Emnes had looked particularly interested when the ball was in the final third before the first goal went in after 17 minutes.
Forest were furious. Moments after strong claims that Radoslaw Majewski's shot from 18 yards was blocked by the arm of the sliding Jonathan Woodgate, Middlesbrough counter-attacked and found the net at the other.
Leadbitter's searching diagonal pass found Albert Adomah. His cross in to the six yard box was too strong for Darlow and Kamara slid in ahead of Eric Lichaj to convert.
After that Middlesbrough counter-attacked, occasionally, but had plenty of work to do in the other direction and would have equalised had it not been for Steele's heroics from the spot-kick.
When Williams' crunching studs first challenge in the area on Majewski led to the attacking midfielder sprawled on the floor, referee Phil Dowd was under pressure to give a penalty and did so.
But Steele got down to his left strongly to thwart a Reid, the former Sunderland playmaker, dead ball, which led to confusion in the area that a retake had been ordered.
Instead a corner had been ruled and, after some pushing and shoving which got Kamara booked, Middlesbrough's lead remained intact until half-time.
Steele was even busier after the restart. After Adomah and Kamara had threatened at the other end, the Middlesbrough goalkeeper made a stunning one-handed save to his right from Jamie Mackie's near post header which changed direction off Simon Cox.
When balls did come in to the Middlesbrough box, Kamara tended to be there to help out and the ability to clear lines gave Mowbray's men the platform to add a second.
It arrived ten minutes after the interval. Another counter-attack led to Emnes finding Leadbitter. The former Sunderland man rolled to Friend and he struck the sweetest of first time drives high to Darlow's right.
After that Forest came to life and made things interesting when Derbyshire was left unmarked at the back post to head Reid's cross in off the far post.
And moments later another substitute, Henderson, looked to have won a penalty when Dowd charged in to the area when he went down in the box after rounding Steele. The striker, though, was booked for diving instead when he appeared to go down theatrically despite decent claims.
If Henderson wasted that chance to score, he made no mistake with his next chance. When Eric Lichaj, on loan from Aston Villa, fired in a low cross, Henderson gave the excellent Steele no chance.
At that point Nottingham Forest looked like the only winner, with Billy Davies sporting a smile as wide as the River Trent.
But Middlesbrough, who did lose Ledesma to a straight red in stoppage-time for a tackle from behind on Henri Lansbury, held on courtesy of another late save from Steele from Reid's free-kick.