Reds stay the course to see off Boro and go into the third round..

Majewski was tonight's matchwinner with a well-taken goal

Nottingham Forest – 2
Middlesbrough – 1
(After extra time – 1-1 in normal time)

Well that’s cheered me up no end.  First things first, those of you using Twitter should point your client of choice at @bradyo2 and thank him for being our lucky omen tonight.  You see, poor Oli finally arrived home to start to listen to the game for Middlesbrough to score against us – upon my suggestion via a sneaky Tweet he duly switched off, and well, things went rather more our way from that moment onwards! So thank you, Oli!

Right, on to business – as readers will know I was decidedly down about our chances in this game – and I’m happy to say Billy and the boys duly shoved my doubt and gloom in my face and delivered a cracking and thoroughly deserved win.  Of course, ideal preparation for a certain match on saturday would not have involved playing into extra time – but dishing out a first defeat for a side as good as Middlesbrough won’t do the lads’ confidence any harm at all.

Not too many surprises in the team, the only really unpredictable element generally in our selections these days is who will be on the wings and up front, Billy went with:

Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Cohen
Anderson    McKenna    Majewski    Davies
Blackstock    Earnshaw
Subs: Camp, Garner, Mitchell, Fairclough, Adebola, Tyson, McGoldrick

Quite a pleasing line-up for me, because I am convinced that on their day Dex and Earnie will prove to be our most effective strike pairing (that’s not to say I don’t really like our other options too – it’s a nice dilemma to have!).  Sitting in D Block just behind the Director’s box I must admit I did get distracted a bit by stalking the people in there, namely the chairman – of course – a certain Stuart Pearce, Ian Storey-Moore, John Robertson – Billy Davies with his little control centre of screens and a phone.. it was interesting!

So, the match.  The first half was fairly even – and both sides struggled to fashion clear chances – although Smith had to be on his toes to make a smart double-save after a mere five minutes first from Aliadiere and then Arca who was following up.  He also saved from on-form Johnson, saw Aliadiere shoot wide and Williams blast over from long range – but that’s not to say the Reds weren’t creating chances either.

Robert Huth almost lay a great chance on a plate for Paul Anderson with a short backpass, with Coyne on hand to prevent the winger nipping in to score.  Earnie – who wasn’t having the best of evenings – fired wide after half an hour when Dexter set it up for him, and shortly after had another shot from the edge of the box which really never looked likely to trouble the Middlesbrough ‘keeper.

Boro’s goal came just before half time – a Forest attack broke down in what should have been a corner to the Reds, the latest in a line of hapless officials awarded a goalkick, from which – to their credit – Boro broke very quickly and effectively.  A long ball forward was helped on by Emnes finding Johnson in acres of space to calmly pick his spot and give his side the lead – at the time I thought they were fortunate to be ahead, it had been an even first half – although the visitors had created the better chances.

The second half was fast-paced from Forest, with them looking much more purposeful – Earnie again with a chance, this time from six yards out after good work from McKenna and Dex, but he just couldn’t seem to get the ball out from under his feet to fashion a shooting chance allowing the Middlesbrough back line to regroup and clear.  At the other end Davies misplaced a pass which put Gunter under pressure from Aliadiere, Gunter slipped and the striker burst through, fortunately missing the target.

Next up, the equaliser.  Brace yourself, this was from a corner.  That’s right, a corner.  Davies was the man to take it, and it was Luke Chambers of all people who powered through the penalty area to meet it with what looked to me like an audacious back-heeled volley from about ten yards out.  Coyne got a strong touch on it, but it still crossed the line – and that’s the goal that will go down as the first that Middlesbrough have conceded this season!  Well done Luke, a cracking goal!

The game was stopped for a while whilst the referee made a great drama about some minor injury he’d picked up – only to find him be replaced by somebody even more incompetent than he was.  Replacement referee was miles behind play when McGoldrick and then Adebola were bundled to the ground by Boro defenders in the area – Billy Davies and fans alike went crazy, but it was never likely he’d give the foul and penalty when he was so far behind play.

There were time for a couple more scares from Boro, a freekick was whipped in dangerously requiring Smith to save at his far post, and he needed to be alert to palm a corner over the bar to safety too.  The second half drew to a close with us reflecting positively on a good Forest showing in since half time, and slightly regretting the extra running the boys were going to have to put in given the proximity of a certain game.  But overall, the mood was good.

Extra time nearly got off to a great start – Cohen crossed from the left to Adebola whose header wasn’t powerful, but deflected wide for a corner.  The corner found Chambers who headed quite horribly wide.  From a Boro perspective Arca should probably hit the target rather than hitting it wide of the near post when it looked as though he had more time to pick his spot.

However, it was to be Forest’s night – I think it was Cohen who played the ball in from the left to Adebola, whose layoff was perfect for Radoslaw Majewski to strike cleanly with his left foot into the net much to our delight.  An excellently worked goal.  This rather knocked the stuffing out of Boro, and despite more than fifteen minutes left to play they didn’t seem able to fashion any chances – and the Reds were able to wind the game down and even create a few more chances.

Some great performances all round the team – my man of the match goes to Dexter Blackstock, very closely followed by Wes Morgan – although Luke Chambers, Paul McKenna, Radoslaw Majewski, Paul Smith, Nathan Tyson, David McGoldrick – all deserve a special mention.  Indeed, nobody had a bad game at all, Gunts and Earnie look a bit out of sorts, maybe it’s a Welsh thing?  I thought Cohen looked much more like his usual self today.  And Arron Davies finally showed us how a corner should be taken!

A very pleasing victory indeed – well done to the lads, I hang my head in shame for ever doubting you!  And so a third round place awaits us, of course, whilst this was happening utter carnage was unleashed on the streets of East London in some sort of turgid re-enactment of ‘Football Factory’ or ‘Green Street’ – sad to see, and certainly predictable from the moment the draw was made.  Let’s hope none of that nonsense occurs on Saturday when Derby come to town.

And to finish on a lighter and self-indulgent note, today the blog ticked past three quarters of a million visitors.  Three quarters of a million!  That’s a bloody lot of visitors – thank you all very much for your contributions to that count.  I’m very chuffed.

Forest vs. Middlesbrough preview..

Our visitors this evening are Middlesbrough, probably the strongest thread that runs between the two clubs is an old one – Brian Clough rose to prominence as a player for Boro back in the day, and of course reached the apex of his phenominal managerial career as a manager at the City Ground (in both cases, with Peter Taylor as part of his team!).  Both Middlesbrough and Nottingham proudly boast statues of the great man, paid for through fund-raising from their local populations.

Anyway, I digress.  Tonight doesn’t come at an ideal time for us – already stretched to beyond-paper-thinness by injuries to our defenders, we are likely to not have the services of Joel Lynch for tonight’s clash either after he picked up a back injury at QPR that meant he didn’t come out for the second half.  So a defensive reshuffle looks pretty much nailed on – depending on how seriously Billy is taking the competition of course.

Gunter can cover right or left back, and either McCleary or Cohen could cover the other full back berth.  Wes and Chambers are the only senior centreback options – although there’s a possibility Billy may give youngster Mitchell an opportunity of some first team action.  I’m half expecting him to field Paul Smith in place of Camp as he did in the first round against Bradford.  Once we get out of the defensive area then the selection posers become a case of lots of options, rather than barely any.

McGugan of course is missing following his fractured cheekbone against Watford, but there are plenty of permutations and combinations of midfield options depending on the shape Billy wants to play – including playing strikers on the wing as seems to be a new fad of his.  If Cohen is taken up with defensive duties then it’s likely that McKenna and Majewski will feature in the centre of the park as options look a little thin there with Moussi, Perch and McGugan all unavailable through injury.

Up front there aren’t any injury concerns at all – so that will be down to whichever option Billy wants to test out.  I’d hope to see Earnie involved, though – perhaps his inclusion or lack thereof would be a good indicator regarding the supposed resolve Forest have in not selling him; with both tonight’s visitors and their North-Eastern neighbours Newcastle United supposedly interested in securing his services.

Boro have a few injuries of their own to contend with – but frankly, I can’t see much past a comfortable evening’s work for them unless they opt for a severely weakened team.  Perhaps if they show that level of complacency we might be able to pull off a surprise result – but I’m not heading down to the City Ground tonight expecting much beyond a fairly limp performance from the Reds, unfortunately!  God I’m in a grumpy mood today!

I wonder if Notts County will loan Sol Campbell to us?