|Pos. 22st (38 pts)||MONDAY 2 MARCH 2020||Pos. 4th (60 pts)|
SHOTS (on target)
Smash and Grabbaned
Well here we are again with another “must win” game in a rapidly diminishing list of “must win” games. Following on from a perhaps not so deeply revealing “interview” in today’s Gazette Sabri Lamouchi was bringing his Forest up to the Tees in a “Redwoods” versus “Deadwoods” clash.
Fighting for automatic promotion Forest arrived fresh from their victory over Cardiff whilst Boro were perhaps not so fresh after their illustrious last victory on New Year’s Day and a subsequent series of draws and defeats, which has now dropped them into the drop zone. Only a victory for Boro tonight would be good enough to pull themselves back out of the mire. Forest had a few injury concerns with Tiago Silva being the highest profile one whilst Lewis Grabban has been struggling with a knee-come-hamstring injury but because he keeps scoring goals his manager perseveres with his half-fit Striker. In stark contrast Boro Strikers seem to be struggling with a goals problem but Woodgate still perseveres with them. Forest fans didn’t seem overly bothered about missing Thiago deriding him as “overrated”, if so, I shudder to think how they would classify our midfield collection.
There were the usual sick notes in from Rockliffe with the worry that as well as Friend, Fletcher may also be missing due to a hamstring issue. As Boro’s most “prolific” Striker that should have come as a huge blow yet I doubt many Boro fans were overly concerned as we had Rudy Gestede just waiting in the wings assuming that he didn’t make eye or verbal contact with any fans on his way to the Stadium.
The live TV coverage didn’t help a sparsely populated Riverside which has been slowly emptying in tandem with our slide into the abyss of League One. Those assembled home masses in the concourses seemed to be a mix of fully paid up members of the forever Boro rose tinted brigade and a throng in preparedness for mental awareness week from the 18th to 24th of May which could be timely considering the likely outcome of Boro’s Championship finale.
Formation and tactics aside the Rockliffe Bingo numbers this week saw three changes from the team that lost to Leeds. Johnson, McNair and Gestede came in to replace Friend, Fletcher and Saville. Semedo filled Silva’s boots as Forest made just one change from Cardiff. O’Neil and Nmecha were on the bench for Boro with Britt absent due to a penalty virus presumably.
Darren England was the man in the middle for tonight with Forest kicking off and winning a corner in the first minute. Taken short it was over worked and over complicated right going back to their Keeper Samba. An early good low cross into the Boro box caused a few raised heartbeats but it was eventually collected by Pears. Figueiredo then closed down Gestede quickly at the other end as Boro launched their first foray. A good run from McNair saw him play it out wide to allow a cross in from Coulson in the 4th minute saw Gestede poke a toe out to deflect it wide for a goal kick.
Samba’s long clearance from the goal kick reach Ameobi whose cross was blocked by Moukoudi for a corner. The initial corner was punched out by Pears only for Cash to send it back in but Grabban couldn’t get his feet organised in time and Figueiredo sliced his effort well wide with ten minutes approaching. A long ball out from defence by Clayton nearly set Coulson up to sneak in on the edge of the Forest 18-yard box but Samba was alert and came off his line quickly to collect. So far the visitors seemed happy to sit and try and pick Boro off while Boro themselves were playing it safe utilising Coulson as the main or indeed only outlet. A teasing cross in to Pears’ goalmouth in the 13th minute was cleared after some very nervy defending but from it Boro broke with Coulson and Johnson in support getting a cross in which eluded Gestede but came off Ribeiro’s arm for a weak penalty claim as the game showed signs of springing to life.
A cross from the right from Tav was headed back in towards Wing on 18 minutes who was pushed over in his specialist area for a Boro free kick. Just outside the “D”, Lewis hit it off the wall and from the next pick up Johnson won a corner. Taken short, it was easily read, blocked and very fortunate not to have found ourselves defending a breakaway attack. Shotton meanwhile done well to fend off two blue shirted attackers, perhaps not convincingly but it worked in the end. As we broke out, we ended the move with a shot on target from Lewis Wing albeit a daisy cutter but it was a definite shot which Samba had to kneel down to save. Boro were now enjoying having a bit of space to pass the ball around, seemingly growing in confidence with the game now 25 minutes in. Granted the passes didn’t always find a Red shirt but in truth Forest weren’t getting a handle on the game either in what was an industrial Championship display.
Coulson was our only outlet with Johnson supporting him on the left flank. Tav out on the right was almost anonymous, just underlying that he isn’t a winger. A Boro free kick in the 26th minute was floated in perfectly for Samba to pluck the ball out of the air with ease, yet another Boro set piece wasted. A seemingly harmless throw in on 27 minutes saw Semedo hold at bay two Boro defenders finding Ameobi who played a simple ball to Yates on the edge of the box who hit a daisy cutter of his own past the despairing Pears. His second goal all season with his only other being against us.
Three minutes later Coulson cutting inside was set up by Gestede and got his shot off that went just past Samba’s upright. On the opposite touchline Tav was played in by Howson and his cross was deflected out for a corner. Tav took the corner but hit it at waist height and cleared out but it came back in and as Samba was upended by his own defender Wing’s shot was headed out for a corner by Figueiredo. This corner on 35 minutes had a slightly better trajectory but it was aimed at nobody in Red by McNair and thus wasted. Two minutes later Coulson again tried a shot from the edge of the box which skewed wide. There was now plenty of effort from Boro but very poor in quality with only Coulson looking likely to create anything of note. The lack of Spence’s pace and skill on the right was screamingly obvious as we were totally lopsided offensively.
A McNair free kick on 40 minutes was adjudged to have been taken too quickly by Ref England as it was played out wide. Rumbled the follow up was changed from a wide play out to the wing to a lofted ball to the far post where Moukoudi rose to head it across the six-yard box where Gestede rose to head home from a yard out, 1-1 and only four minutes to half time remained. Under pressure, a brilliant catch from Pears bravely coming out to collect a long forward Forest punt was immediately thrown out to Coulson having switched over to the right wing, he charged forward cutting into the Forest half and released Wing who picked his spot past Samba who got a glove to it but the ball spun away and agonisingly in slow motion crawled over the line to put Boro 2-1 up!
A fee kick to Forest in the last seconds of added time was launched in towards Pears’ goal who again punched clear despite being bundled into the net by goalscorer Yates. Perhaps he had been watching those Stojanovic YouTube videos. The Refs whistle sounded seconds later to rousing cheers which certainly didn’t seem likely just five minutes previously.
The half time team talk would have been a more positive one but despite the rarity of two goals at home and consequently winning at the interval we had been totally reliant on Hayden Coulson. Wing was battling and scrapping, McNair had a few driving runs but it was Coulson who was the creator for anything of merit. He and Johnson were linking up well but Howson and Tav on the right side just weren’t firing and it was ironic that it was Coulson unusually wide on the right that created the second goal.
Boro got the second half underway with Tav quick to chase and close down Cash but Forest broke and immediately won a corner. Played in low, causing anxiety which was cleared down the left wing where a Johnson cross arrived perfectly for an unmarked Gestede who bizarrely headed it back into the 18 yard box instead of goalward bound and in doing so conceding possession. Forest then broke, winning themselves a corner which ended with Watson blasting it over in what had been a frantic few seconds.
A McNair free kick was headed clear for a throw in on 50 minutes which was recycled then crossed in by Johnson which caught Samba out as it seemingly dipped just below his crossbar but it caught Gestede out as well as the second half now saw more thrills and spills in four minutes than the last four Boro games. Clayton had been the architect for a few probing balls that unlocked the Forest defence on a few occasions. Instrumental in spraying the ball wide and pinging it about with growing confidence. On 55 minutes Lamouchi had seen enough and brought Diakhaby on for the lacklustre Semedo.
The game settled down a little in terms of being a bit manic after the substitution with Forest now more composed and starting to gain a foothold but Boro were tenacious in their tackling defending deep. A free kick on 59 minutes seemed to stick in the Boro box but was eventually worked out in a move that resembled an upright scrum with the ball emerging from the feet of the packed masses to be hoofed to safety on the right by Howson. A long range shot from Lolley who had moved into the middle after the Substitution was well over but Forest had visibly now upped their intensity.
A Howson surging run from defence carried the ball well over the half way line, finding Tav wide right who switched it in towards Coulson who left it for Johnson who played it back in but the move was cleared but it showed endeavour and quickness of thought from Boro something that had been missing since Preston. A minute later a cross to Gestede found him up-ended seemingly hauled down with appeals for a penalty going unheeded by Darren England and his Assistant. On 68 minutes a lost cause Forest long ball was revived courtesy of Ameobi’s long legs to send it into the Boro danger zone, headed clear by Shotton but then drove back in by Lolley only to go flying wide. Pressure from the away team was now noticeably growing. Ameobi was then hooked for Carvalho on 69 minutes and Forest now had twenty minutes to get something while Boro had twenty minutes to just hold on and hopefully nick a third against the run of play.
The “nicked” goal nearly happened when Pears cleared down the pitch for a Gestede flick on for Wing to chase which nearly caught the Forest defence cold but it ended up with a corner. McNair took the corner but he completely cleared the box to nobody from which Forest attacked and after Ribeiro wide left found Diakhaby only a comedic bagatelled clearance between Shotton and Johnson saw it out for the first of two quick corners both of which were eventually headed clear of danger. Boro were now under the cosh with no outlet. A minute later on 74 minutes Diakhaby ran straight at Shotton who earned a Yellow for presumably standing still. The free kick from twenty yards out was delivered to the far post and went out for a corner to be awarded to the visitors. Shotton cleared the danger but it came straight back and a cross into Grabban saw Pears get down low to put him off in what was the best chance of the second half. Lamouchi then brought on Bostock for Yates on 77 minutes to up the ante.
Another free kick for Forest on 78 minutes saw Bostock’s first involvement which was headed clear and then brought out by Tav to try and hold up play momentarily easing the wave of Forest attacks. 80 minutes now gone and another Forest corner came into the Boro box by Carvalho for Moukoudi to head clear, back in it came and as the ball went out for a throw in Lewis Wing made way for George Saville as Woodgate presumably looked to add some more solidity alongside Clayts with McNair now pushed up. It nearly paid immediate dividends with Tav having Samba struggling to hang onto his low shot and then Saville’s shot was blocked and Johnson was fouled for a free kick 40 yards out which again was woeful in its execution not for the first time season and easily cleared.
The substitution seemed to add temporary momentum and eased the pressure on Boro’s defence as we ventured over the half way line daring to encroach into enemy territory. Five minutes remained and the sub Carvalho won yet another corner which was delivered to the edge of the box in a training ground text book play, hit with power driven into the six yard box and as Pears came out Grabban looking suspiciously offside deliberately backed into him ignoring the ball and managed to toe poke the spinning ball past Pears and McNair to make it 2-2 just as Boro looked to be getting back into it.
Tavernier then came off for Spence with two minutes of normal time remaining. Howson ran forward and as the move broke down Forest went wide and progressed down our right-hand side but the cross was cut out by Shotton along with the rebound shot coming back in towards Shotton who instinctively deflected it wide. Four minutes added time came up and it was now akin to the Alamo with Boro repelling waves of attacks, finding it impossible to break free. The whistle finally went and it ended 2-2 which would possibly have been perceived as a decent score line a few weeks back but it was two crucial points dropped and Boro remain in the bottom three thanks to once again shipping a goal in the last twenty minutes.
It was a much better performance in parts of the game but our lack of a threat other than through MOM Coulson faded as his energy levels sapped and Spence coming on with virtually only seconds remaining was too little, too late. By then we were run ragged and just holding on. The equaliser looked extremely contentious in that Grabban seemed to be playing Pears rather than the ball with his arm raised at throat level. In truth it was coming and to a neutral it was probably the least Forest deserved for their total dominance in the second half but those wasted set pieces came back to haunt Boro along with their failure all season to shut up shop in the last quarter of a game. There was fight and desire in patches but as effective as Coulson and Johnson were down our left there was nothing to balance that on our right. The arrival of Spence came far too late and by then the game was almost over and we were hanging on. Charlton up next on Saturday at the Valley in the next in the Boro series of “must win” games!