Middlesbrough 2-0 Nottingham Forest: Chris Wilder’s side end visitors’ nine-game unbeaten run as Ryan Yates’ own goal and Andraz Sporar strike earns three points
- Ryan Yates’ own goal gave Middlesbrough lead over in-form Nottingham Forest
- Andraz Sporar then doubled the advantage to put the home side in control
- Forest had not suffered defeat for nine game in the Championship
Steve Cooper admitted Forest were their own worst enemy as they gifted Middlesbrough the points in the battle of the Championship’s upwardly-mobile promotion hopefuls.
Ryan Yates chipped in with an embarrassing 11th-hour contender for comedy own goal of the year before goalkeeper Brice Samba joined in with the ineptitude to help smooth Boro’s passage into the top six thanks to a fourth win in seven games since Chris Wilder took charge last month.
It meant Forest, who looked doomed to a grim battle for survival after collecting a point from their first seven games, missed a chance themselves to climb into the play-off places after a first defeat in 10 games under Cooper.
Middlesbrough celebrated going ahead after a Nottingham Forest own goal on Boxing Day
The hosts were coming up against tough opposition but managed to secure three points
Steve Cooper’s side are not used to losing but slipped up in the North East on Sunday
After suffering only a second loss since succeeding Chris Hughton in September, Cooper conceded: ‘The less said about their first goal, the better. It was a strange moment. What do you want me to say about it? We fell short today, first-half especially. We were below par and to be fair that’s not been like us.
‘Give Middlesbrough credit, they played well but we were second best and we didn’t play well enough to win – it can happen in this division. It’s about how we react to this result now, that’s the important thing – we can’t get too down.’
Barring a brief spell of pressure early in the second-half, Forest could have few complaints at coming away empty-handed as they were second-best all over the pitch to a Boro side playing with renewed verve and energy thanks to the galvanising effects of Wilder.
The Teessiders should have been home and hosed by half-time in one of just two fixtures in the second tier to beat the Covid-19 call-offs which have ravaged the festive fixture schedule.
That they only had Yates’ 17th-minute moment of madness to show for their dominance is perhaps the only downside for their new manager, who has lost just one of those seven games since he succeeded Neil Warnock.
Andraz Sporar scored the second for Middlesbrough to bury Forest in the second half
There appeared to be little danger when Yates accepted the ball from Brice Samba on the edge of his own area, but as Jonny Howson applied the press, the Forest midfielder sent a no-look back pass beyond his stranded goalkeeper, who was unable to prevent it from trickling over the line.
Boro should have added another three to that tally, but they were kept in the contest by Samba, who had more luck saving efforts from the opponents than from his own team-mates.
After Onel Hernandez saw a long-range effort deflected narrowly over, Samba got down smartly to his right to block an Andraz Sporar shot from the edge of the area. Neil Taylor, who has gone more than 250 games without scoring in senior club football, almost broke that lengthy drought when the full-back burst into the area only to see his shot clawed out by the busy Forest keeper.
When Wilder’s men finally found a way past Samba, the frame of the goal came to their rescue as Isaiah Jones’ far-post volley from a narrow angle struck the upright, the impressive Taylor the line of supply.
Forest had to improve on a dire first 45 minutes, and did just that, befitting of a side with the third highest tally of second-half goals in the division this season – 23. That should have swiftly increased to 25 but for some wasteful finishing from two clear cut chances fashioned by the prodigious talent of Brennan Johnson.
Sporar fired home and Forest were unable to stage a comeback at the Riverside Stadium
The young forward left Paddy McNair trailing to provide a perfect cutback which the unmarked Philip Zinckernagel inexplicably skied from 10 yards. Joe Worrall then headed over from another inviting Johnson centre as the visitors finally started to make a contest of it.
They proved to be costly misses as Sporar doubled his side’s advantage with 20 minutes remaining. Jones fed Matt Crooks, whose low cross was pushed out weakly by Samba for Sporar to fire home a close-range second to halt the Forest revival in its tracks.
Substitute Xande Silva struck a post as stoppage time approached, but at that point it was always going to be too little, too late as the Wilder bandwagon rolls on.
Boro were 14th when the Yorkshireman took over, and he said: ‘It’s a great result. I’ve been here watching when it’s been full like this, but I’ve never been involved at the coal face at the same time so it was a fabulous occasion.
‘If we start pulling-in punters by playing the way we did today, what that does to the players is fabulous. The atmosphere that generates gives them the energy to go and dominate a really good Forest side.’