Middlesbrough vs. Forest preview..

Pre-season the bookies would have had you believe this was a game likely to be contested between two title contenders.  Whilst Forest’s assault on the automatic places has faltered a degree of late, the fate of our hosts on Tuesday has been somewhat less auspicious.  This is, of course, the game in hand – so if nothing else, by Tuesday evening we’ll have a clearer view of how the land lies.

Saturday’s trip to Millwall was a competent enough performance from the Reds, but their dominance in possession did not translate to goals as Forest struggled to break down a resilient Lions rear-guard.  At the same time Tony Mowbray’s men were on the end of a fairly comprehensive pummelling courtesy of league leaders QPR on their own pitch.

Boro have been a team of extremes in their last five games – wins against Scunthorpe at home, and Millwall away are interspersed with defeats at the hands of Palace away, Swansea and QPR at home – they’re a difficult team to predict, that’s for sure.  Indeed, reports suggest that the weekend result was in no small part thanks to outstanding individual performances from Adel Taarabt and Wayne Routledge.

Despite limping off the pitch at The New Den it’s thought that Joel Lynch will be okay to resume his duties covering for Konchesky’s injury at left back, which is good – he had a decent game on Saturday.  Earnshaw appeared to come through his return unscathed, which leaves us with Tys, Moussi and Findley on the crocks list (I refuse to accept Wils is really injured!).

Anyway, Middlesbrough are – as we’ve discovered of late with other opponents – not a side to be underestimated.  After games in which we ought to have achieved more (thinking Scunny, Preston and Millwall) we really need to develop more of a cutting edge, and fast.  Both in creating and finishing off chances.

I still think it’s too soon to say that failure to get the win at the Riverside would consign us to the play-offs at best this season, but it would certainly make an assault on the automatic promotion places a much more daunting prospect.  Whatever happens I’ll be glad to see an end to the ‘… but we’ve got x games in hand’ type thinking we’ve all be doing.

Scunthorpe away was of course a game in hand and that didn’t exactly go according to plan.  Win this one and we are level on points with Cardiff in third – a one goal margin levels our goal difference, but they’ve scored more.  It would also enhance the slight gap we have to Leeds and Leicester beneath us.

But of course we must not count chickens – Boro inevitably count this amongst their games in hand, and will be keen to be rid of such things as much as us, albeit for different reasons.  They are one of the few teams below Derby in the league table – three points adrift of the Rams, five points away from the drop zone – which is starting to look not great for the current inhabitants of the bottom three.

There’s been a degree of talk about banana-skins in our recent fixtures – and without being disrespectful, both Scunthorpe and Preston have proven to be just that of late.  It does sap my confidence somewhat, and added to the unpredictability of our hosts I’m left worrying we might end up with another frustrating evening…

Come on Billy and the boys, prove me wrong.

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